Who could resist a title like this?! Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this feel-good debut novel tells the story of Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, a fake fakir (Indian mystic), who ends up travelling the world after he heads to Paris to 'buy' a new bed of nails from his nearest Ikea megastore. Along the way Aja gets arrested by the UK Border Agency, falls in love, infuriates the taxi drivers of Paris and travels to Italy in the trunk of a famous actress.
Given 'The Extraordinary Journey's' title and the feel-good story that follows, comparisons with 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared' are prehaps inevitable. And it is true that, like 'The Hundred Year Old Man', Puertolas' debut is a charming, surreal comedy about the adventures of an unlikely hero that also exposes some of the darker aspects of human existence (in this case focusing on the experience of immigration into modern Europe).
That said 'The Extraordinary Journey' holds up well to the comparison, being genuinely funny and, at times, rather moving. Aja is an engaging, eccentric hero and his positive outlook on life made this a quick, enjoyable read. I also feel that this would make a good addition to a book group's reading list, providing a lighter read whilst still tacitly providing enough 'issues' (albeit lightly handled ones) to get a good debate going!