This book, written by Jonas Jonasson, is pretty brilliant. I had already read the ‘sequel’ to this book, which technically isn’t a sequel but follows a similarly bizarre storyline. The Hundered-Year-Old man in question is Allan Karlsson, who originally appears unhappy with his situation, but otherwise unassuming. After disappearing from his care home on his one hundredth birthday by climbing out of the window, Allan heads on a surprising adventure which becomes less surprising once we learn more about Allan’s past. Events from Allan’s extraordinary life are interspersed throughout the book, alongside current events.
On his journeys, both past and present, Allan meets a plethora of characters. Jonasson’s characters are eccentric and well thought-out, if a bit fickle (i.e. prone to changing ‘side’ at short notice!). The characters Allan tends to meet during his life are often well known historical world leaders, the majority of whom tend to take an instant liking to Allan. Allan’s backstory especially is fantastically unbelievable, but makes for brilliant reading. I enjoyed reading the parts about Allan’s past more than the main storyline!
Something I would point out which slightly damages the book is that an awful lot of convenient events happen just when the reader is wondering how the author will get Allan out of the trouble he’s in. For instance, a young Kim Jong Il is calling ‘Uncle’ Stalin to check that Allan is in fact the Soviet general he is pretending to be, and as it turns out Stalin has just that day passed away. There are a few similar occurrences, and although they by no means detract from the novel as a whole, they are weak links in what is otherwise a fantastically thought-out story.
I absolutely loved the character of Allan, his ability to make everyone a friend, and his no-nonsense attitude about things he feels strongly about (he won’t allow anyone to talk politics to him). He’s also brilliantly clever, and speaks about 7 languages, all picked up on his unintentional travels. During the present-day adventure, it’s Allan, the eldest by a good many decades, who solves most of the problems and devises many of the plans.
This is a reasonably lengthy book, and I did think at a couple of points that I was near the end, when I was nowhere near. However, the ending is great, and although Allan has lost a few people along the way, he remains as optimistic, and as knowledgeable, as ever. An absolutely brilliant read, which I personally prefer over Jonasson’s second book (The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden), which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys an engaging, smart, thoughtful read, with a surprisingly happy ending.