This book is: a raucous yarn.
Other elements: elephants, communism, hijinks, bibles, murder, explosives, centenarians, crime, politics, atom bombs.
Read it: if your brain wants a treat.
Overall rating: 8.75/10
He was on the run from his own birthday party, another unusual thing for a 100-year-old, not least of which because even being 100 is pretty rare. (Page 8)
I was having a rough week when I happened to download this book onto my Kindle and give it a go, and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. I took it up to my roof deck with a blanket and a big glass of wine, and it was the ideal kickoff to my spring.
First, credit where credit is due: it was Publisher’s Weekly who first referred to this book as a “raucous yarn” and I haven’t been able to think anything else about it since. Thank you, PW, for calling this book exactly what it is. I hereby borrow your phraseology.
What makes The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (I’m not going to repeat the title every time) such a success is its tone. The premise and plot of the novel are both extraordinarily complex and completely absurd, and the only way to pull them off would have been to write the book in exactly the right way. Luckily for us, Jonas Jonasson did write it in exactly the right way. Major props also to Rod Bradbury, who translated the novel from Swedish into English.
Chief Inspector Aronsson ended the evening with a gin and tonic, and while he drank, he sat there feeling sorry for himself and fantasized about pulling out his service pistol and shooting the pianist in the bar. (Page 202)
My one criticism is that I think this book would have benefited from being the tiniest bit shorter. Cutting one or two of the less brilliant scenes would have allowed to let the rest of the novel shine more brightly. I found myself tiring of the characters for about 20 pages 2/3 of the way through – and then something amazing happened, and I was in love with everything again. But I would have preferred to avoid the loss of momentum, if possible. I read very quickly, however, and that can make it easier to overdoes on a distinctive voice.
As a child, Allan had been taught to be suspicious of people who didn’t have a drink when the opportunity arose. He was no more than six years old when his father laid a hand on his little shoulder and said:
–You should beware of priests, my son. And people who don’t drink vodka. Worst of all are priests who don’t drink vodka. (Page 135)
Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and if you like dark humor, absurd situations, and improbable coincidences, you will too. I actually think it feels somewhat like a Mel Brooks movie, except that, rather than feeling like one long joke, the book takes itself seriously and all of the events that transpire just happen to be ridiculous.