The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is absurdly offbeat and unpredictable – in a good way. Between laughs, I spent my time reading the nimble plot of this novel filled with curiosity, attempting to second guess the author. What’s more this book is a bucket list in motion.

‘Well, now you can see how sensible it is not to start your day by guessing what might happen,’ said Allan. ‘After all, how long would I have had to go on guessing before I guessed this?’

Centred on the escapades of the centenarian and nursing home escapee Allan Karlsson, the interspersed chapters of this tale weave between his earlier adventures and current goings-on.  Allan is very much a glass-half-full (of vodka) character, his laissez-faire attitude shapes the nature of the story and it’s light hearted and ironic tone. The free-wheeling narrative illustrates the crossed paths of Allan and many influential historical figures of the 20th century, including: American presidents, Russian tyrants and Chinese leaders. Blissfully blind to all things politics related, Allan haphazardly (and inadvertently) builds and obliterates international relations.

Dotted throughout the narrative are the endearing and quirky individuals that Allan encounters along his way. Notably, the clueless Herbert Einstein and his empty suicidal tendencies characterise the black humour of the novel. Not forgetting the growing group of friends (and an elephant) that Allan amasses by the end of his journey, which by definition is unconventional. This book is a nutty and interesting read. With the concept of ageing at its core, the novel defies social boundaries of age in its topsy-turvy world.

One Day – David Nicholls

One day is an outside-the-box romance. It is an account of the synonymous friendship and romance of Emma and Dexter. Set on one day (15th July), it depicts snapshots of the protagonists’ lives over twenty years. David Nicholls’ creative writing style and adept judgement of what-to and what-not-to include, lends itself well to the piecing together of the missing years.

Classically, this is a story of opposites attracted. It is the definition of will-they-wont-they? It is a brutally honest characterisation of the complexity of relationships and is an education of the vulnerability that love brings.

 

The book deals with missed opportunities and dysfunctional relationships. I often laughed at Dexter and Emma and found the book had a clever balance between heartbreaking and humorous.It is a tormenting story and the premise of only seeing one day a year is rivetingly irritating.

P.S. The hopeless Ian and his ‘tracky botts’ definitely deserve a mention. I was rooting for you Ian (kind of)!

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help is an illustrative tale of the racial tensions in Jackson 1962, it illuminates segregation, prejudice and the hurtful truths of the past. Set around the time of the Civil Rights Movement this story ties together historical fact and fiction.

Kathryn Stockett, a white author, bravely took the challenging task of writing and presuming what life would be like as ‘The Help’, raising young white children who would inevitably grow up to discriminate and affiliate with the blinkered opinions of their society. The author draws upon her experiences of growing up in Mississippi to create a revelatory story of injustice, discrimination and relationships.

Each chapter of the story is written from the perspective and narrated in the voice of one of the three main characters. It follows the intertwined lives of these women, two of whom are black maids (Aibileen and Minny), and one a young white lady (Skeeter) who recognises the unjust nature of her society. The main hook in this story highlights the choking fear and tradition that trapped many women in their role as the help.

Though it is important to note that this story not only evokes sympathy but is also riotously funny with doses and doses of humour. Notably, rebel Minny’s ‘terrible awful’ insurance pie. This book is simply a warm and beautiful read. It is a truly vivid account of historical-fiction.