I have just experienced four books with similar themes yet quite different from each other. Is it just me or have people had it with their lives? Don't get me wrong. I am a happily married, animal loving person with great friends living in a beautiful country but don't most of us just want a travel adventure that is different? Do they want to get away from the everyday ordinariness of what to expect everyday? Yet if life were up and down all the time wouldn't that be just as bad?
For some reason these books have all visited our house this past year. The most recent acquisition was:
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This one must be my favourite of these books. I bought this book simply because I was intrigued by the title. An old man about to celebrate his 100th birthday, tired of fuss and people who bore him, slips out of the window and disappears.
Of course it is very difficult to get away with this action as everyone immediately begins looking for him and of course he isn't a very fast mover.
He ends up at the bus station and goes as far as his money allows. The remainder of the book outlines the many adventures and misadventures he has. The book is Swedish and quirky and I really enjoyed it. The Swedes seem to have a wonderful knack of making a reader really feel the country side, the climate, the eccentric characters. It is a fun read.I never knew what was going to happen next and I cared about the people I met. I'd love to have sat in a farm house kitchen with the characters and shared a meal.
The second man on the run or should I say "on the walk" is the story of another elderly gentleman, this time in England who receives notification that a woman he worked with 20 years previously is dying of cancer. He walks off the pages of the book of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. She sends out a simple message to people she has known to give them this sad news yet she hasn't had any contact for all of these years. He writes a response but isn't happy with the way it sounds and as he walks to the post box to post it out he decides to keep walking. He doesn't seem to get out of the rut he lives in very much and as he finds the weather to his liking he walks yet farther to another post box. He then decides he is going to walk the 250 kms or so it would take across England to deliver his note in person.
As he walks he shares his experiences about the people he meets, his thoughts, his memories of the woman he is off to see and his poor wife is left as a quite bewildered old soul on the home front thinking he truly has lost his mind. Yet again a man is on the road, reflecting over his past life, facing his mortality and wondering how he has come to the point he has. I didn't enjoy this book as much as the "Man Who Climbed Out the Window" as Harold reminded me too much of the character in the book Mr. Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomon. Although the two stories are vastly different I felt the location was very similar as well as the style and 'feeling' I got as a reader. Hard to explain. Mr. Rosenblum was a Jewish man who had emigrated to England with his wife and followed a list for himself of goals to attain to become a proper Englishman. I found it to be a charming book, very quirky and I cared a great deal about him and his wife.
Walking across England to deliver a message to someone who had not been seen or spoken to for more than 20 years made Harold a bit unbelievable to me. However I did care about him and wanted to know what happened. Yet I often wonder....why are the English gentlemen in so many 'quaint' novels portrayed as short, quiet, exceedingly polite and very boring characters. I find it is such a stereotype. Are any of my English mates out there able to enlighten me?
The final book of someone trying to cope with life in a strange fashion was one I picked up at the library. Entitled The Woman Who Went to Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend appealed to me on a couple of fronts. Mainly because I was very tired the day I checked it out and the thought of living in bed for a year was appealing. I think this is a clear example of choosing a book completely by its cover.
I read the first 100 pages and decided to not finish it as there are other books I would prefer to read. I don't know if I am tired of people climbing out of windows to escape nursing homes, walking across England to wrong rights and visit old times or hearing about people simply trying to find a place in their life even if they have lived most of their lives. I just couldn't read any more and time to go into something completely different. Also I didn't feel much empathy for her and I was happy for her to just stay in her bed while I went and completed other things.
I must say I laughed when I reviewed my book list and thought why am I being drawn to these titles. Mainly because I love quirky stories but I like for them to be believable Mr. Rosenblum was believable as was the old guy wanting to escape the nursing home though the rest is pure fiction. Both of those books were fun. They also had a hard edge of reality to them. Mr. Rosenblum had been through the Polish invasion and the whole holocaust tragedy. The old man in the nursing home was just over it all and wanted an adventure. I think many people could relate to these concepts.
Trekking across a country on a whim with no cash, clothes, or reliable reason or going to bed for a year was a bit too much of a "Let's be clever with our plot" and see what happens. I am sure there will be others who enjoyed these books but they weren't at the top of my pile once I finished or didn't finish as was the case with the bed ridden woman.
It is interesting all of these novels are modern books having been published fairly recently. Is this concept something new to books of the 21st century? Are there other books out there from the earlier times where people decided to not face daily life and thought up random excuses? Well, maybe Don Quixote but that was centuries ago and he was mad. I can't think of any others but there are people out there who read a lot more books than I do.
It has been a fun topic to think about and if I am to wake up tomorrow morning and don't want to change the dog's neatly used pee towel in the kitchen anymore as she can't get through the night without it and if I don't want to clean up the garden yet again after more wind undoes the previous work what will I do? Go to bed for a year? Walk across Australia to go look for more Penguin books somewhere? Maybe I'll just take off on my big scooter with my tent and sleeping bag and have an adventure in the Australian outback. But then my new big scooter isn't due to arrive for yet another 3 or 4 weeks. In a novel it would be here by now. Would anyone be interested in that story? Just a bit of quirkiness for thought. Would love to hear any thoughts.