Writing humour, I believe, is probably the most difficult literary discipline, because humour is such an individualistic concept. What one person finds gut-bustingly funny, another finds offensive, or ridiculous, or just plain not hilarious, not even worth a Sheldon Cooper breathy ha-ha.
Given that introduction to this review, you’re going to think: ah, she really didn’t like Jonasson’s absurd saga. That would be correct. However, my negative reaction to Jonasson’s epic (and no, I’m not going to write out the title because it’s just too long), has more to do with plausibility (yes, yes, I know, this is an absurd story and so plausibility ostensibly has been swallowed by a black hole) and rather lackluster prose.
I was willing to follow along Jonasson’s story while the main character, Allan Karlsson, climbs out the window to escape his centenary birthday party and the retirement home to which he’s been relegated. I was even willing to follow Allan aboard the bus with the appropriated suitcase full of drug money foisted on him by an intellectually hampered drug-dealing youth. However, when the story ventured into wilder and more improbable history and escapades: a frozen body shipping off to Djibouti, an accidental body-crushing by an elephant sitting down, shoving said elephant into a school bus with a host of other misfits absconding from society (did Jonasson have any idea how much food required, and shit created, by an elephant riding around in said school bus?!), apparent assistance creating the original atom bomb, being an essential strategist with the Kuomintang, a detective assisting Swedish police to prevent as assassination attempt on Winston Churchill….
And that’s just for starters. It’s all just so ridiculous. It’s like reading some adolescent attempt at story-craft in which the writer just starts scribbling down ideas and themes, with no concept whatever how to string that all into a believable, cohesive whole. Yes, yes, I know all about absurd humour. Just look at Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Brilliant! But Jonasson? Dear gawd, no. Not a scintillating paragraph or thought or scrap of prose in the entire novel. Just an endless stream of consciousness of:
Give me a break.
Read or not. Who cares? I’m out of here.