Pub Date: July 2012
Publisher: Hesperus Press
I think the best way to describe this book is a Swedish, black-comedy version of Forest Gump. The title sums up the beginning of the book pretty well, when Allan Karlsson leaves his nursing home and gets entangled in an adventure involving a suitcase of money, murder, thieves, a hot-dog retailer, and an elephant. The story is interspersed with tales from Allan’s past, involving some of the biggest events in history.
This is a very cleverly thought up book. I found Allan’s present day adventures fun, and his past was bizarre and strangely educational. I think the main issue with the plot was some of the jokes skimmed over the top of my head as I didn’t know enough of the 20th century history that was covered. I found the chapters I enjoyed the most were the ones that I had background knowledge too. However, there were lots of instances where anyone would find the situations hilarious, and as every good black comedy does, it made murder funny.
The main source of entertainment was Allan himself. He wasn’t a conventional comic character; it was his naivety and lack of interest (and fondness for vodka) that made him so funny. There was something unbelievable about him, the way he didn’t care for politics or religion or money, but it was that which made him a brilliant character. As for the supporting characters, well there was something a bit mad about all of them: whether it being a student in everything, or being a lack-wit that managed to take over a country. And it was the way that Jonasson made all these insane events seem realistic that made the book so engaging.
The only complaint I have is in the writing. I found myself loving the story, but at the same time I found the writing to lag or to have too much superfluous information. I ended up skipping over large paragraphs of text because I wasn’t that interested. If anything, this book did make me want to brush up on my history and politics, and I found it to be a good, unreliable source of events that I want to know about. The good thing about it being written by a Swedish author was that there was no British or American bias to the story, meaning that unlike Forest Gump, it was easier to get a fun and slightly more truthful story.
Sum It Up: A fun and witty story, perfect for those with an interest in history and politics, but for those who don’t, it can drag a bit.