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The Shadow Girls: A Novel Hardcover – October 16, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Both passionate and entertaining — and a strong indication that the Swedish are not as lugubrious as their crime fiction makes them out to be."
The Telegraph

About the Author

Bestselling author Henning Mankell has received numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association’s Macallan Gold Dagger and the German Tolerance Prize. His Kurt Wallander mysteries are global bestsellers and have been adapted into the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. He divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique. Ebba Segerberg has translated One Step Behind, Firewall, and Before the Frost by Henning Mankell (all available from The New Press) and Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595581928
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595581921
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tamis Renteria on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mankell is a good detective fiction writer, but this novel wanders and is frankly very boring. And I don't like the main character at all, whereas I love Kurt Wallender. I think I understand why he wanted to write this novel, to reveal the stories of some of these immigrant women and to show what's happening in Sweden that is tearing at the fabric of a once homogenous community, but because the main character is not particularly sympathetic, and because of the untidy, unfocused structure of the book, it just doesn't work. I was very disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
It's an odd book. The purpose of this didactic work is to tell the story of illegal immigrants and thereby increase public awareness of their plight and perhaps of the restrictive immigration policies of European countries, Sweden in particular. I wonder why it took eleven years to be translated into English and published in the United States. We certainly have our own problems with the treatment of illegal immigrants. It's a well-crafted novel. Humlin, the central character, and those around him are made to appear ridiculous, totally preoccupied with their own petty problems and unaware of the plight of immigrants, whose goal is "to become visible" (p. 145), although to a certain extent, they are protected by their invisibility. The first portion of the novel deals with Humlin's own efforts - and the efforts of those around him - to gain greater visibility within the society of which they are a part. The vehicle suggested to gain visibility is to write a crime novel. Humlin's publisher suggests that he do so, although he refuses even as the company starts a publicity campaign about a novel which doesn't exist; his mother claims she is writing one; his rival claims to be writing one; his girlfriend claims to be writing a tell-all novel about their life together. Humlin is afraid that any of them might be more skilled than he, thus taking the spotlight, no matter how small, away from him and subjecting him to invisibility. It's absurdist literature at its best and funniest. The main theme is "there are few things that make any sense in this life"(p. 165), and Humlin's world becomes ever more absurd after his encounter with a world of which he was unaware - an underworld of people who "don't exist.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read all of Mankell, and this book is a delightful change. Half the plot is deadly serious, about human trafficking and illegal immigration of refugees....and the other is about the poet whose agent insists he write a crime novel (seemingly like every other Swedish writer), whose mother is impossibly manipulative, and whose girlfriend is learning from his mother. Relax and enjoy the surprise. Not nearly as dark as you're used to.
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Format: Hardcover
Towards the end of this strange 2001 novel, not previously available in English, there is a scene where the protagonist, the eminent poet Jespers Humlin, comes upon a young woman watching a Swedish film from the 1950s on television: "She's watching a film about an extinct species, Humlin thought. A Sweden whose inhabitants no longer exist." He might as well have said an all-white Sweden, not the multi-ethnic society that obtains today, at least in the larger cities. And many of these new inhabitants have arrived illegally, to lead a shadowed existence below the legal radar. They are the true subject of Henning Mankell's book, though he has chosen a strange medium to explore it.

There is no questioning Mankell's commitment to international human rights issues, and to Africa in particular, where he spends half of each year as director of a theater in Mozambique. Even his series of novels featuring detective Kurt Wallander, quintessentially small-city Swedish in their setting, have often turned on subjects such as refugees and international trafficking. And African characters or topics turn up in many of his non-Wallander books, most notably DANIEL (2000) and THE MAN FROM BEIJING (2007). The Shadow Girls of this novel turn out to be three refugees: Leyla from Iran, Tanya from Russia, and a beautiful young woman with a dazzling smile from Nigeria known only as Tea-Bag. By the end of the novel, the stories of each of the three will have been told, stories of survival against the most terrible odds. Readers focusing only on these -- filled with horror, pity, and indignation -- might well conclude than a novel dealing with such an international scandal and such human resilience must ipso facto be a major work of art, but in this case they would be wrong.
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Format: Hardcover
A noble purpose: Mankell has written a novel to make visible the underclass of those who have fled to Sweden to escape the horrors of their homeland; interestingly, his protagonist, Jesper Hamlin, plans to do the same. Unfortunately, this is one of those novels where the reader is all too conscious of the author's artifice. In the dialogues between Jesper Hamlin and those in his circle, Mankell channels Joseph Heller's unique style, but Mankell is no Joseph Heller. In portraying the illegal immigrants Mankell uses a lyrical style which he pulls off competently.
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