- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (April 7, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062329146
- ISBN-13: 978-0062329141
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 718 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: A Novel Paperback – April 7, 2015
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“A funny and completely implausible farce about a woman, a bomb and a man’s frustrated ambition to overthrow the king of Sweden… The rest of the world will chuckle all the way through it.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“In The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson unfurls a wide, whimsical net that readers will relish being caught up in.” (BookPage)
“A funny and improbable tale with characters from South Africa to Sweden demonstrates how even the most seemingly insignificant people can change the fate of the world.” (Denver Post)
From the Back Cover
In a tiny shack in the largest township in South Africa, Nombeko Mayeki is born. Put to work at five years old and orphaned at ten, she quickly learns that the world expects nothing more from her than to die young. But Nombeko has grander plans. She learns to read and write, and at just fifteen, using her cunning and fearlessness, she makes it out of Soweto with millions of smuggled diamonds in her possession. Then things take a turn for the worse. . . .
Nombeko’s life ends up hopelessly intertwined with the lives of Swedish twins intent on bringing down the Swedish monarchy. In this wild romp, Jonasson tackles issues ranging from the pervasiveness of racism to the dangers of absolute power. In the satirical voice that has earned him legions of fans the world over, he gives us another rollicking tale of how even the smallest of decisions can have global consequences.
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Top customer reviews
"The statistical probability that an illiterate in 1970s Soweto will grow up and one day find herself confined in a potato truck with the Swedish King and prime minister is 1 in 45,766,212,810. [This, according to the calculations of the aforementioned illiterate herself.]"
The said illiterate and protagonist of the book is a black girl named Nombeko, 14 when we first meet her. For the past nine years, she has been an employee of the City of Johannesburg Sanitation Department as a latrine emptier, but things are about to change for her. For one thing, she has a genius for calculations, and once given a chance to get rid of that illiteracy, she will reveal a genius for most other things as well. Indeed, she is a thousand times smarter the head of the South African nuclear weapons program, an alcoholic appointed through nepotism for whom she finds herself working as an indentured employee. Until the weapons program is ended, and she finds herself in virtual possession of a working atomic bomb that never got entered in the official registry….
Alternate chapters take us to Sweden, where a fanatical republican brings up his twin sons, both called Holger (don't ask!), to carry on his mission to destroy the monarchy. He dies, and Holger One follows in his father's footsteps while Holger Two, saner and smarter, has other ideas. Roughly a third of the way into the book, the two stories will connect, and after the passage of several decades and many, many, many twists and turns, they will culminate in the back of that potato truck with the King of Sweden.
This is not really my thing at all; I prefer a bit more reality in my novels. But I enjoyed it for several reasons. First, Nombeko is such an attractive heroine, and there is always pleasure in seeing the underdog use her wits to get the better of those who have all the advantages. Second, Jonasson (as translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles) has a most engaging style, seldom laugh-aloud funny, but always amusing. Thirdly, his plotting is so darned good. Unlike many tall tales, it is not simply a matter of tacking on one episode after another like a weekly serial. There is clearly an intricate geometer at work here, introducing vectors on page 80 or 100 that will not click into place until page 300 or 320.
And finally, the novel is not so disconnected from reality after all. Although the doings of the main characters are improbable, they are shown against an international background that is essentially factual. The oppression in 1970s South Africa is real, as is the end of Apartheid. Events in Sweden are probably less well known to outsiders, but as far as I can see, these are real too, and the book gets in some sly questions about its political self-image. And on the world stage, its viewpoint extends to Israel, Russia, America, and the increasing role of China in Africa. The action of this political satire may be whimsical, but its world-view is as clear eyed as they come.
However, after Nombeko establishes a relationship with Holger Two, the plot settles down to a dull whisper and the resolution of the conflict got absolutely deadly dull for me. I found myself flipping pages not to find out what happened next, but to end the story. The "chase" by the Israel agents seemed an after thought and just seemed to dangle at the end(at least for one of them). For instance he spends way too many pages giving the background for the King of Sweden and the Prime Minister. He also resolves final issues with the characters with overly idealistic solutions.
I flipped through at least 50+ pages that seemed pointless. The only redeeming part was the characterization of Holger One's girl friend, Celestine, who hates everything and anything on both sides of an issue and does not know why, nor does she ever make sense. She is an absolutely hilarious character and is a perfect exaggeration of people we all meet. There are a few spots in the last part that are good, even funny, but not many. I am disappointed with all but the first half of the book. The book is being given away.