It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there.
But, as it turns out, Allan is not…Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway.
And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century.
This was our book club read for October, and another one which I wouldn’t have picked for myself and with good reason. I couldn’t help myself but make assumptions of what this book was going to be like from the cover and the blurb and I wasn’t far wrong.
The blurb and the title pretty much cover the plot without leaving a lot more to add other than parts read like a history book, with others reading like a Monty Python sketch (not that I like or watch Monty Python, just from the snippets of clips I’m aware of), so does read like a farce.
There were some humorous elements but for me not laugh out loud, more of a smirk. I’ve said it before in my reviews and I don’t mind admitting it, I just don’t have the right sense of humour or even patience for these types of books – I was right out of my comfort zone with this book!
Other than Allan, the protagonist, there were a few other characters that he encountered along his journey (other than the historical figures) who became quite featured; all with their own agendas and back stories but I didn’t really feel any kind of affinity to any of them.
I’m assuming this book has been translated from Swedish into English, and overall it’s pretty good; however some sentences do come across as a bit long. They could have been written a little more succinctly. Also, the chapters are ridiculously long. As someone that likes to read in chapters I was having to leave them mid chapter, one I counted was around 30 odd pages. I know this doesn’t sound a lot but the pages are rammed full of text; there’s very little actual speech so does feel quite heavy going.
That said, our book club had a very lively, interesting discussion about the book so was ideal for a group read. One of the questions we had was along the lines of which historical character would you have liked to Allan to have met. Now, I suggested the Duke of Edinburgh which everyone thought was hilarious. What with some of the faux pas that he comes out with and the whole farcical feel to the book – would have been a perfect combination!
Fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year should enjoy this book that could possibly could win an award for longest book title ! 🙂
Connect with the author Jonas Jonasson