Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 23249 – 1161
First, rather than bore you with lengthy, though heartfelt, apologies I can only say that life has become somewhat more hectic and sporadic (albeit interesting) at the moment for both good and bad. This means that posts will likely be even less predictable than before. I usually share what’s going on with you but some things do not have to do directly with me so I am not, of course, comfortable sharing all that on the Internet. Mrs. Herb and I quit Farcebook et al., a number of years ago for reasons that included all the gossip that flies around.
Here’s the haps:
Okay, so I did what you have always heard you weren’t supposed to do and I judged a book by its cover. More accurately, by its title. Friend of this blog, Jacqui Murray, posted on her blog, Word Dreams about Henlit, “a sub-genre of women’s fiction that focuses on the experiences of older women.” On the list of examples was this book, which, while it is about an older person it’s really not about women. I read that title and just knew I had to read this book.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared was written by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson and translated into English by Rod Bradbury.
The main character of this book is a centenarian named Allan Karlsson who lives at the Malmköping Old Folks’ Home. He is at odds with Director Alice who is too restrictive for him and so, while they are planning his one-hundredth birthday party he, as the title implies, climbs out the window to escape from Director Alice and the boring life at the home. He shuffles off to the bus station in his slippers with the plan to take the bus as far as a fifty-crown note will take him. At the bus station, he meets a young man who has a suitcase that he won’t let go of but which he winds up leaving with Allan just for a moment so he can use the restroom. The bus is ready to pull out and since the young man hasn’t returned, Allan takes the suitcase with him.
He gets off at a stop that is pretty much disused but is home to 85-year-old Julius Jonsson. The two hit it off splendidly and when the young man, who is very violent and going to be in a lot of trouble with his boss if he lost the suitcase, shows up he gets rough with Julius, unaware that Allan is behind him with a large plank of wood, which he proceeds to use to conk the young man out. But how hard can it be to get a suitcase back from “an old geezer?” The gang that is after the suitcase has a boss and three members and are very anxious to get the suitcase back because it is full of money from a drug deal.
The author uses flashbacks (shown by dates for each chapter) at key points to heighten tension, create suspense, and tell us about Allan’s very interesting life. He got a job in a dynamite factory as a very young man and wound up teaching himself all about how dynamite, nitroglycerin, and anything related, works and became a self-made explosives expert. He is very apolitical but winds up meeting important people including Truman, Stalin, Mao, Franco, and others.
The pacing is good and held my attention all the way through. The ending might have been a bit long but it tied up all the loose ends very nicely. TNT pointed out that there is some swearing in the book. In my personal experience, I have read a wide variety of things, like most Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey stories that had zero to a very minuscule amount of cursing to Michael Chricton, whose characters are some of the most potty-mouthed in literature and I would put this book at the low end. But there is some pretty rough language in a couple of spots.
It seems like the translation was just fine but the punctuation was quirky to me. Mainly the quotations in the dialogue. For example, in one place it reads:
—I’ll order the food, so you can choose the drinks, said Harry Truman jovially and handed the wine list to Allan.
The way I learned it (and it’s possible this has changed, of course), it should read:
“I’ll order the food, so you can choose the drinks,” said Harry Truman jovially and handed the wine list to Allan.
Overall I would give the book four, almost five stars, and recommend it. It’s definitely readable, moves along well and has a good story with interesting characters like Chief Inspector Aronsson, Sonya the Elephant, The Boss, and others.
Sadly the sequel did not live up to the original. It was very preachy and political and the author wears his heart on his sleeve. I got as far as page 25 before I just chucked it on the “Donate to Goodwill Thrift Store” pile.