Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not…
Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash, a few thugs, a very friendly hot-dog stand operator, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which — remarkably — he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.
This book was great. I actually enjoyed it more than my rating indicates. It was humorous and written in such a lighthearted tone that you can just ignore the atrocious and gruesome things that happen in the book. I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book and staying immersed in it. There were parts that were funny and captivating but I would lose interest at other parts. I think this is a book that you have to be in the mood for – and maybe I just wasn’t completely in the mood for it. I could benefit from a second reading, and this is a book that I definitely will pick up and re-read again.
This book is written from two different timelines. We follow Allan on his adventures through Sweden as a centenarian, with the police and the press hot on his heels. Throughout the book, we also get to learn about Allan’s past as he ends up in one country after another. Eventually the timelines converge and Allan’s whole story is tied together at the end.
At first I wasn’t sure about the dual timelines. I would have preferred just to read about Allan’s new thrilling life as a centenarian. It was interesting to learn about his past, but it also felt at times like a boring history lesson. There also isn’t much dialogue in the book, which made some things feel a little dry. I started to enjoy it a little bit more when I got past the halfway mark. I also learnt a lot about world history and communism along the way, which was boring at first but I came to enjoy. My problem with it initially was that there was no clear link between Allan’s present and his past, which led me to wonder why we were getting so much information about his past. But I liked that the story comes full circle at the end of the book.
I liked the characters a lot in this book. I liked Allan’s carefreeness and his humour. All of the characters in this book were so individualistic and I appreciated the work that was put into making each character unique. I also liked the amount of historical research that had to have been done by the author. I ended up doing a little bit of research as I was reading and a lot of what happened in the story was historically accurate. This made me really appreciate how Jonas Jonasson was able to incorporate Allan into things that had happened in world history.
The ending made me really glad that I stuck with the book until the very end. It was a great ending to the story and ties everything together so well.