This lovely light-hearted book was a delight to read. Allan Karlsson is not looking forward to his 100th birthday party in the Old Folks’ Home in his Swedish town. In a quick moment of action to avoid the festivities, he walks out of his window, across the grounds and boards a bus. Unleashing a somewhat ridiculous train of events by stealing a suitcase at the bus station, he finds himself having to deal with criminals, a large pile of money, and various characters who come along for the ride.
Woven in among the present-day adventures are flashbacks over Allan’s life. From an early age, he developed skills in making and setting explosives, which have seen him placed in the major events of the last century, including the Spanish Civil War, the development of the Atomic Bomb and the Vietnam War. These stories, while obviously fiction based in history, are a delightful diversion along the way. For a man with no real convictions of his own, and an absolute aversion to any political position, he finds himself meeting and helping key people including President Truman, Chairman Mao, Stalin, and Einstein’s lesser known (fictional) brother – the very stupid Herbert.
Back in the present day, Allan gathers various companions of questionable virtue along the way, who help him to avoid both the criminals and the police who are on their trail, all of whom are wondering how this centenarian has managed to avoid them at every turn.
This is a fun romp of a book, with a very dry sense of humour throughout. You’d have to be in the mood for it (that is, in the mood for something a bit ridiculous and farfetched), but I liked it.
Two further thoughts:
- On a more practical note, reading a book like this with google maps alongside is marvellous – I could track where they were going in Sweden to get a real feel for the distance. I even found photos of the where the bus stop was!)
- I recognise my differing opinions with the treatment of history between this and The Secret Chord. Here I enjoyed it, seeing it was clearly fiction and not really pretending to be anything more. Perhaps The Secret Chord was meant to be read the same, I just felt the tension more with a biblical text. I can’t figure out whether I should be more relaxed about it, or not. Things to consider.