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On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson decides to escape from the old people’s home in Sweden where he lives, and climbs out of the window.  When the disappearance is discovered, a huge search is launched, with everybody wondering what has happened to the centenarian.  The truth is stranger than they could possibly imagine.

As Allan gets involved with, amongst others, a lifelong petty crook, a foul mouthed woman, and an elephant(!), he finds himself accidentally becoming rich, and evading gangsters; he takes all this in his stride – as, it turns out, he has been doing his whole life.

The chapters in this book alternate between 2005, when Allan makes the aforementioned bid for freedom, and his life prior to ending up in the old people’s home.  And what a life it’s been!  It turns out that Allan has met several world leaders (including Stalin, Chairman Mao, Churchill, and three American Presidents), and has also had a huge influence on world events.  Throughout it all, he has spoken his mind, kept his temper, and enjoyed a glass or two of Vodka whenever he can.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first.  The premise is pretty ridiculous, and there was also a lot of repetitive phrases used throughout, which did grate a bit at times.  However, it does have a certain kind of charm which won me over, at least enough to keep me listening, (I had the audiobook), because I did want to know what happened.

Allan was in turn frustrating and endearing.  In the end, I had to admire his attitude to life; he was pragmatic, but also able to use his brain to get him out of a sticky situation – a skill which came in handy on more than one occasion.  His companions weren’t as well depicted, but then, it’s not really their story.

The historical parts were interesting – although Allan’s part in events were entirely fictitious, the situations described, such as the Cold War, and Chinese Communist Revolution, were very real, and I think this book would be entertaining for 20th century history buffs.

Overall, I enjoyed the story – maybe not enough to read another book by the same author, but enough to recommend it to fans of quirky comedy.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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