It isn’t very often that I read a book that falls into the “humour” genre; my tastes run more to mystery (modern, Victorian, and medieval), biographies, and historical fiction. But The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson, is hilarious. Having a father who just turned one hundred is helpful but not necessary to appreciate the escalating adventures and crime spree as Allan Karlsson picks up gangsters, drug runners, and thieves along his escape route from the seniors’ home where he found the rules oppressive. Completely without interest in politics, Allan has nevertheless spent 5 years in a Russian prison camp in the Gulag, has survived the Spanish Civil War by switching sides part way through, been incarcerated for 4 years in an asylum, and has crossed the Himalayas from China partly by camel and partly on foot, only to be imprisoned upon arrival in Tehran. He has met and helped Vice-President Truman, Sir Winston Churchill, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, General Franco, and Mao Tse-tung; but Director Alice of the Old Folks’ Home and her rules and restrictions prove too much for the intrepid Karlsson, so on the day of his hundredth birthday he climbs out his bedroom window wearing his bedroom slippers (or pee-slippers, as they like to call them, on the theory that old men can’t pee past their slippers) just minutes before the start of his party.
With a limited amount of money in his pocket, Allan takes the first bus to come along at the station and boards with a suitcase he’s been asked to watch for a young thug who needed to use the washroom. He disembarks at an abandoned train station in a forest where he teams up with a middle-aged petty thief named Julius. Together they discover that the suitcase contains 5 million crown notes. Meanwhile, the police think Allan has been kidnapped and are on his trail and the Never Again gang is tracking him down to retrieve their money. This is where the dead bodies start piling up.
The 100-Year-Old Man has been made into a motion picture.
The adventures go back and forth covering Allan’s earlier life and his current life as his own “gang” grows to include a hot dog vendor turned chauffeur called Benny, his older brother, Bosse, a swearing farmer’s daughter known as The Beauty, her Alsatian dog Buster, her 4 1/2 ton elephant named Sonya, and eventually, the former gangster boss Pike and Chief Inspector Aronsson who had been pretty certain that Allan had committed, at the very least, double murderer.
At first, I found it difficult to keep straight whether Allan or Julius was the 100-year-old man and which was the petty thief or the explosives expert but after checking back to the start a few times I got it straight and was able to sit back and enjoy the rather pithy humour. I did find it took me longer to read than many of the books I go through but perhaps that was because I had a lot going on while I was reading it. It really is a lively story with an interesting twist at the end. * * * *