Featured bedtime read: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

By Jonas Jonasson, 2012

4.5 out of 5

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.

Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun, feel-good book for all ages.

Chapter 1

Monday, 2nd May 2005

You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to tell the others of his decision. But Allan Karlsson had never been given to pondering things too long.

So the idea had barely taken hold in the old man's head before he opened the window of his room on the ground floor of the Old People's Home in the town of Malmköping, and stepped out — into the flowerbed.

This manoeuvre required a bit of effort, since Allan was one hundred years old. On this very day in fact.

Take it from Allan — never try to out-drink a Swede unless you happen to be a Finn, or at least a Russian. He should know; our Allan likes a drink — vodka more specifically, and as a fuel for life it seems to have stood him in pretty good stead.

Trueman, the Iranian Shah, Churchill, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, even president De Gaulle — just a few of the names who pop up in Allan's rollercoaster road trip of a life. A Swedish smorgasbord of high jinx, strong drinks and one heck of a constitution! But then if you find yourself as Allan did, aged ten in a nitroglycerine factory, life was always going to go with a bit of a bang.

The soviet atomic weapons programme, thirty-eighth parallel, a mental asylum — nothing Allan couldn't cope with. So what do you do when life starts to fizzle a bit? Well that's when you become the 100-year-old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared.

Writer Jonas Jonasson has blown us and the rest of the world away with this international bestseller. If ever there was an advert for life and longevity, for growing old disgracefully, and never judging someone on the basis of their politics, this is it.

Allan Karlsson who, at a hundred, runs away from an old folks home (and subsequently the long arm of the law) with an assortment of lovable dropouts and petty thieves, has had a charmed life. Although not without its complications, as Jonas is quick to remind us by running Allan's hysterical and highly improbable hundred year existence — he invented the atomic bomb you know, quite by accident, of course — in parallel with his equally incredible Swedish real-time adventure. Yep — there is an elephant involved!

Of course, along the way there are a few casualties, as you would expect; this book does span a century. In contemporary Sweden, Allan, the ultimate survivor, makes sure he outlives the good-for-nothing's Bucket and Bolt. They don't last the distance, which is a real shame, because if there's one message that shines out of this book loud and clear it is: life is there to be lived, and the more unpredictable the better!

So go on, enjoy it. I guarantee this rip-roaring adventure and laugh-a-page pick me up will leave you longing to live forever.

Listen to Tessa's review

More reviews

  • Fast-moving and relentlessly sunny… Like Allan, the plot is pleasingly nimble and the book's endearing charm offers a happy alternative to the more familiar Nordic noir.- The Guardian
  • A mordantly funny and loopily freewheeling debut novel about ageing disgracefully.- The Sunday Times
  • Read user reviews on Amazon

More about the author

Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson was born in Sweden in 1961. He has a professional background as a journalist and media consulter.

He is now writing his second novel.

Find out more