Hello and welcome to the end of the road. Yes, I know that many of you will be in tears that this frankly fantastic book reviewing series is coming to an end. I know there are tears of joy but I’m just going to smooth over that fact. It’s kind of appropriate that the last novel I review be about a man in the twilight years of his life so here goes this last Febookuary obligatory overview!
Allan Karlsson, having just turned one hundred, is not too keen on celebrating his birthday. So, not giving much thought to his actions as he is susceptible to, he climbs out the window and steps out into the flowerbed. He knows all the residents of the retirement home will be there, along with the mayor, the local paper and the retirement home’s bad-tempered director Alice. They’d all be there waiting. But Allan had no intention of being there.
Yet from the time between his disappearance and getting on a bus, he manages to steal a suitcase full of stolen money and has a Swedish gang on his tail and also the police who are trying to find the disappearing geriatric. But this isn’t the stickiest situation he’s been in. From blowing up bridges, to walking across the Himalayas, from chatting with Harry S. Truman, to having a drink with Josef Stalin, Allan may be old, but he’s had a far from boring life. And it hasn’t stopped yet.
So let’s just be frank about this. This book is incredibly funny. Jumping from his adventures in the present day, to his incredibly interesting life of the previous one hundred years, Jonasson weaves a tale that manages to pack in a lot of laughs as well as many brilliant side characters and history to go along with it. We get a sense of Jonasson’s sense of humour straight away as, while Allan is escaping from the elderly care home, he comments;
‘Allan cut across the churchyard to the south, until a stone wall appeared in his path. It wasn’t more than a metre high, but Allan was a centenarian, not a high jumper.’
It’s this sort of gentle humour that allows the novel to plod along with a pace that makes you forget its near four hundred page length. While it generally won’t have you bursting out in raucous laughter that will have tears streaming down your eyes, it’ll certainly have you guffawing in a place or two; especially when elephants are involved.
This sort of humour rests mainly on Allan himself who, for lack of a better phrase, is quite innocent. He is almost Forrest-Gumpish in this innocence, although without the mental deficiencies of Forrest. He really wishes for a bed, food and vodka and if all criteria are met, he’s content wherever he is. He doesn’t do politics or religion either which, in a century where these played a massive part in shaping the world, to have Allan outside of this is quite enjoyable, his apathy bemusing and entertaining those he meets in his travels, and believe me, whether historical or completely fictional, there are all colourful and vibrant in their own peculiar ways.
Now you may not know this, but I’m a bit of a history lover. I mean, I don’t always delve into it with a euphoric bliss, but when it’s there I appreciate a bit of history. Jonasson must have had my 8-bit picture by his desk when writing his novel as the tale appeals so deeply to my historical heart. Name dropping US Presidents and Russian dictators, as well as his involvement in historically momentous events allows you to slip into Allan’s shoes, or slippers depending on which time period you are in, and really take in all the surrounding.
But I must admit that, with this being Jonasson’s first literary endeavour, there are occasions that you do get the impression that he is cramming historical facts which, while interesting for me, may become a bit boorish for those of you who un-historically inclined. I hear there is no cure for this disposition so all I can say is sorry to you. You’re missing out.
However, for those of you who find pleasure in the detail, there is so much that can fascinate your mind, will make it reel back in horror and lean into the pages of the book to inspect the prose ever more closely, with knowledge and imagination blurring into one divine whole.
I apologise for the brevity of this review, but having to write this with the midnight hour close at hand, there is very little I can do. However all I can say that this novel is worth the read. The pages simply fly by from one preposterous situation to the next. A veritable farce in ink. It’s charming, witty, at times soulful, but always returning to blissful humour.
Sorry I probably ended on such a low note but thank you all for joining me on my Febookuary adventure. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. I was going to do a themed month for March, but I feel I may need to slow down for a while and let myself return to reviews that would pounce upon me and beg them to be reviewed. So back to the status quo for now I don’t know exactly what I’ll review next, but when I review it, I hope you’ll all be there to read it. Once again, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Febookuary and thank you all for reading!