Forrest Gump in a novel – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Johanasson

the_hundred-year-old_man_who_climbed_out_of_the_window_and_disappeared-jonasson_jonas-18559732-frntThis was recommended to me by a number of people and being as it was only 20p on the kindle I put it forward as our next book club read. It tells the story of Allan who on the day of his  hundredth birthday climbs out of the window of his care home and disappears (no shockers there based on the title).

It is basically Forrest Gump in a novel, Allan is a bit of a naive apolitical man who is unhappy living in his care home and wants an adventure.  He finds one straightaway when a man leaves him a suitcase to look after at the bus station because “he needs to take a dump”.  Allan decides this is very rude and hops (well as far as a 100 year old man can) on the bus with the suitcase, unfortunately the suitcase is owned by a gang member who is now on his trail and pretty angry.

The book’s chapters alternate between Allan’s current predicament and previous key episodes in his life.  Unconvincingly, Allan has been a participant in a huge amount of the key historical events of the 20th century such as the Spanish Civil War, the development of the atomic bomb, the Chinese Revolution and the Korean War, amongst many others.  Unfortunately after a while these historical chapters start to interrupt the slightly more interesting but still implausible present day story of Allan, by the time I got to Stalin I  had started to skim and I had also become pretty bored by the present day story by the end of the book.

This starts off promisingly and is humorous but loses its charm and starts to become tedious,  for me this book could really have done with some editing in order for it to reach its potential.



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4 responses to “Forrest Gump in a novel – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Johanasson

  1. Aha! I suspected this might be the case when this started getting such rave reviews….I must admit when I read the blurb I also immediately thought of good old Forrest, and therefore was immediately suspicious that this story could be better than (or at least significantly different enough from) that one to bother with.

    • Bruce, your suspicions were correct, if you have watched Forrest Gump you don’t need to bother with the book. Although interestingly lots of my friends have enjoyed this novel, maybe I am missing something.

  2. Jemma

    I have finished the book now so I came to read you review. I understand what you are saying but I have to say I really did enjoy this book. It made me smile all the way through. I was a bit concerned that it was going to go off in a direction I didn’t like with all the Chinese politics (yes, a bit of editing here) but apart from that bit I liked the rest. I loved the accidental burning down of Vladivostok. Maybe your background as a historian stopped you from just accepting all the situations and people Allen haplessly became involved with?
    The style reminded me of Extremely Loud and Incredibly close by Jonathan Safran Foer (maybe my favourite book) and also actually reminded me a bit of your writing style when you send emails or postcards, Kerry. (I hope you don’t find that an insult because I mean it as a compliment!) Simple, pared back humour where a few perfect words hit the nail on the head.
    I might have to watch Forrest Gump now to remind me what happens so I can see what you mean. x

    • Thank you for the nice comment. I think you could be right about the history part Jemma (I like my promotion to historian, sounds quite good), I think it was the same when I read Wolf Hall, it was just I have read about all this before except then it was factual. I can’t remember Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that well but I think from what I can remember that you might be on to something there. Well if you watch Forrest Gump again let me know if you agree.

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