Now who wouldn’t be intrigued by this title! I am a huge fan of this genre. Adventures of funny old men. I have read “A Man called Ove” and “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” and absolutely loved them. A beautiful story covered with clever sarcasm is a perfect treat for the readers. With the same expectation, I picked this book. I mean, look at the title. I get my 100 year old man and he is on an adventure!
The Hundred Year Old… is a Swedish book by Jonas Jonasson. It narrates the adventures of 100 year old Allan Karlsson, who escapes from the care home he lives in, on the day of his 100th birthday. He has decided to get out of the town, away from everybody. At the bus station, a young man asks Allan to look after his suitcase while he visits the restroom. Mischievous Allan steals the suitcase, gets on a bus and escapes. He meets Julius, a 70 year old, at Byringe, who helps him with his stay and food. On opening the suitcase, they find 50 million dollars! The young suitcase owner, a member of the Never Again gang, finds the old men but only to get locked in a freezer and die. From there, it’s the adventurous journey of Allan and Julius, along with Benny, the driver they employ, Beauty, the farmhouse owner where they gatecrash and her pets- a dog and an elephant. Yes. You read it right. An elephant. And to add, the elephant even kills a guy by sitting on him. Uhum!! On the other side, we have Inspector Aronsson who is on an effective chase of this adventure group. Is he able to nab them? Will the adventure group escape?
In a way, the book would have worked better if the story had stuck with just the above adventure. But that’s not the case. The book is narrated on a timeline. One follows the centenarian’s current adventure and other follows the entire life of Allan from his birth. That’s where the book faltered for me. Allan, our lead, isn’t a very interesting character. He is clever, intelligent and has great knowledge on bomb making. But this 100 year old Allan who is introduced to us never really impresses us. Hence I felt no curiosity to know more about him. Coming from a dysfunctional family, Allan prefers being alone. After staying in a mental health facility for a few years for bombing down his own house, he leaves his city to find a new life somewhere else. His bomb making skills lands him in a lot of trouble but later gets the needed acknowledgment. He works for various countries and governments in their wars. He travels from one country to another, escaping from dangerous clutches. It was interesting at the beginning, but as pages went by, I wanted to read more about the 100 year old Allan and not his 100 years of life. There are several characters who come and go in Allan’s life that it was very difficult to keep track off. We have him interact with then President Truman, Stalin, and he even defuses the assassination plan on Churchill. With the war background and lot of political history, I felt I wasn’t reading fiction.
I was pretty confused with the tone of the book. I can’t state it as funny or sarcastic, or it being serious. There are funny moments for sure, but I couldn’t relate to it as “funny funny”. It was too loud rather than subtle. There are way too many characters too. The book is a very long read too and I began skipping paragraphs at the end as I was desperate to finish the book. The book started off on a good note but went off track completely.
A huge disappointment!