Review: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

The Hundred Year Old Man book review

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
Translated by Rod Bradbury
Hesperus Press Limited, 2012

After reading A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (you can read my review here) I needed something light-hearted and easy to read. The copy I’d ordered of The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared had come into the library and it seemed the perfect choice after my last challenging read.

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is about Allan Karlsson who, on his 100th birthday, climbs out of the window and escapes from the old people’s home where he lives. And this is where his adventurous journey begins, which includes brushes with criminals, a suitcase full of money, a series of murders, and hiding from the police. As Allan’s adventure continues, his past life is revealed – a life in which he has, remarkably, played an important role in historical events.

This book was certainly one I needed to read at the time. It’s light-hearted, funny in places, and the writing style is simple and easy to read. The story is far-fetched and absurd – I had to suspend my disbelief many times – but I felt as if its heart was in the right place.

The plot feels carefully planned and events slot nicely into place as the book progresses. However, I think the plot’s absurdity is unfortunately at the expense of the characters, as we are left with cardboard cut-out characters that I couldn’t really invest in. I did warm to Allan and his friends after a while however, particularly Allan’s outlook on life that ‘things are what they are, and whatever will be will be’ – something I could learn from, I think. At times, though, this attitude did begin to grate – how can a man who is completely uninterested in politics agree to help a number of historical world leaders without finding out what his help would mean? Although, perhaps I am taking the book too seriously.

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a nice, if far-fetched and farcical, entertaining tale that is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. It was the perfect anecdote to my previous book and was ideal for reading as I sat in the garden enjoying the sunny weather we’ve been enjoying here in the UK.

Have you read The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared? What did you think? A film adaptation of the book was released recently – have you watched it? How did it compare to the book?


15 thoughts on “Review: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

  1. Amongst my friends I am the only one who was left completely unmoved by this book. I simply couldn’t see the point and just got more and more annoyed with it. If I hadn’t been reading it for a book group I wouldn’t have finished it. I would love to know how it is understood in Sweden and whether or not it is typical of a type of writing that is particular to that country. Needless to say, I haven’t been to see the film, so I don’t know whether it is faithful or not.

    • Unmoved is definitely a word I’d use to describe my experience – I found it entertaining at times but I didn’t warm to the characters that much at all. I’d love to know too – I’m under the impression that the book and film were quite popular in Sweden though…

  2. I just saw the film which I loved but despite the fact my mother and sister loved the book, I probably I won’t be reading it mainly because of the number of books on my tbr.

    • Glad you enjoyed the film! That’s always the way, isn’t it? – too many books to read! Although, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading this book instead of the others on your tbr 🙂

  3. Sometimes, you just need a book that you can’t take too seriously. I have not yet tackled A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, but I would imagine that you’d need a book like this as a balance afterward. Even if you didn’t particularly like it, I’m glad that it was right for the moment.

  4. I read this before I started my blog so don’t have a review to share, but I really didn’t like it. I only gave it 1 star on goodreads. I found all the characters grating, I thought it was a bit too much like “Forrest Gump” (i.e. someone lives through a lot of history’s great moments, seemingly unmoved by them) and I particularly hated how amoral Allan was. As a Spanish Civil War obsessive the thought that someone could suddenly switch sides and like Franco was appalling! I didn’t like the writing style either but I guess something could be lost in translation there. I’d watch the film if it came on TV but don’t think I’ll go out of my way to see it.

    • I did wonder if some of the jokes were lost in translation! Yes I agree – how could Alan switch sides/offer help etc without asking or caring what his help would mean? Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    • I believe the book was hugely popular, so I’m glad I’m not the only one to have thought it was just…okay! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading this instead of other books on your list, unless you’re looking for something lighthearted and easy to read.

  5. I read this book not too long after it came out and found it to be an enjoyable reading experience. I wouldn’t say it is a favourite of mine but it does come to mind when people ask for a ‘light read’ – a lot of ‘light read’ recommendations tend to be chick lit and so this makes for a contrast. The plot is really unbelievable, but Allan, full of life at 100 years old, kept me going.

    I’d heard a little about the film adaptation, I won’t be watching it myself but perhaps it would play out nicely in a visual format – humour tends to.

    • I’d recommend it to people looking for a light read too. I agree, I think it could work well as a film – I probably won’t be watching it though…

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