Being the huge bookworm that most of you will know that I am, you might guess that I spend a lot of time in bookshops notably Waterstones. I rarely pay attention to the charts section in there and normally head straight to the horror and/or fantasy section but I figured that this might be the reason I tend to read books that are all pretty similar. This book was in the charts on one of my recent visits to a bookshop and I felt like picking it up.
Originally published in Swedish four years ago, the English edition has only just arrived in the UK and it is fast becoming a book that everyone is reading. Experienced readers may look at the title and think “that’s a metaphor for something” or “what could that possibly be about?” but it is in fact a literal description of the events of the story. Allan Karlsson escapes through the open window of his bedroom in the Old People’s Home in the Swedish town of Malmkoping on the afternoon of his hundredth birthday.
It was a bit of a slow burner to be honest, although by the end I did very much like Allan the protagonist and so wanted to know what happened to him. His extraordinary life as a travelling bomb expert is played out to us and we learn that he has enjoyed friendships with some of history’s most powerful leaders due to his knowledge of explosives. There is a lot of political chat in the book which is ironic because we’re reminded more than once that Allan himself hates talk of politics and if you’re as afraid of it as he is, this book may unfortunately be one that you give up on pretty quickly.
There were a few moments that made me laugh and this level and style of humour continued throughout the book. Mainly caused by the image of a very very old man getting into scrapes and just generally not being a typical very very old man. The characters he meets along his way including fellow old man Julius, teetotal Benny, Benny’s estranged brother Bosse and the eccentric Gunilla aka The Beauty are all equally amusing in their own ways. The strange circle of friends find themselves on the run from the police after an unfortunate chain of events makes them unlikely murder suspects. The ludicrousness of this storyline is what gives the book its charm and it definitely was Allan’s normal but extraordinary character that kept me reading.
Despite there being a lot of political history covered, it is still a book that turns up the corners of your mouth on more than a few occasions. As a result I’d recommend it as something that perhaps shouldn’t be taken seriously and enjoyed simply for what it is -a satirical, funny and at times whimsical novel.