A Lifetime’s Experience

100 year old man coverBeginning with the book The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, a new kind of protagonist started appearing in popular fiction; someone with a lifetime of experience.  For those unfamiliar with the book, Jonasson’s novel centers around Allan Karlsson who escapes his senior’s home on the eve of his hundredth birthday and sets out on a series of wild escapades involving criminals, a suitcase full of case, a few murders and some very incompetent police. We learn throughout the novel about Allan’s past as a participant in some of the most important moments of the past century and his unlikely friendships with famous world leaders.  The book became a sensation and sold over three million copies worldwide. It spawned a movie in its native Swedish which is about to be remade in English as a big budget American film.  Considering the subject matter it should have been an oddity but senior heroes and heroines began to appear everywhere.

Swedish author Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg followed her countryman with the bestselling “League of Pensioners” Little Old Lady who Broke All the Rules coverseries about the exploits of 79-year-old Martha Anderson and her gang who rebel from their lives of knitting and lawn bowling to pull off the perfect crime by robbing a bank. Unlike other would be criminals they want to get caught so they can be sent to one of the state run executive prisons.  The book The Little Old Lady who broke all the Rules and its madcap adventures has spawned two sequels so far and show no sign of running out of ideas.

Emma and Otto and Russel and James cover

Over the last few years, seniors have appeared as the main character in almost every genre of literature from the humour to pathos and everything in-between.  I have included a small sampling of the many books available, in the hopes you’ll find something special.  Some excellent examples include The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Phaedra Patrick and Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper who takes different approaches to the theme of journeys.  On the lighter side, is Patrick’s book  where Harold Fry decides to walk 600 miles to say goodbye to an old friend in hospice while leaving his wife, Maureen at home. The walk gives both characters time to grow and re-discover their feelings for the other.  Hooper’s book which is set in Saskatchewan, finds eighty-two year old Etta, who is suffering in the first stages of dementia, decide to walk 2000 miles to see the ocean.  Etta leaves behind her husband Otto and their neighbour Russell who has pined for Etta for over fifty years, her companion on the journey is a wild coyote she names James.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand cover

Novels about finding love later in life have included; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach,  The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick , Elizabeth Berg’s The Story of Arthur Truluv and one of my favourite novels to recommend to patrons, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  Simsonson has created a charming tale about Ernest Pettigrew, a very traditional man who values duty and decorum.  A shared love of literature finds Ernest developing an unexpected friendship with Jasmina Ali, a widowed shopkeeper from the village.  As time passes the friendship develops into something more and the new couple’s relationship is tested by their families and the repressive attitudes of their tiny English community.


As our population ages, it’s not a surprise to see more and more books about characters who are still vital andinteresting, who have stories to tell and adventures to have even if they are in the autumn of their lives.

Lori Kauzlarick- www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!

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