Paperback read from 10 - 22 April 2016
As predicted, Jonas Jonasson did not disappoint with his second novel, The girl who saved the king of Sweden. Being a South African myself, there were certain aspects of this novel I've enjoyed even more than its predecessor The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.
The story opens in 1961 with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in Soweto, South Africa. Although she was statistically destined for a short and hard life, it did appear as if the odds were ever in her favour. Yes, she was black and a girl. She was also ran over by a drunken engineer and forced to work for the brandy-soaked head of a top secret South African project (Pelindaba hint hint).
BUT Nombeko was clever and smart enough to make a fool of her oppressor who was less than smart. In fact, he has made a rather troublesome mathematical error.... Let's not be too hard on Engineer van der Westhuizen. A couple of decades have passed and it appears as if certain high-up officials still find numbers a bit troublesome here in good old South Africa.
Nombeko knows about Engineer van der Westhuizen's small counting problem and uses her wit and intelligence to outsmart the engineer and two Mossad agents and escape to Sweden. Due to a mixup caused by three Chinese sisters who were in charge of postal services at Pelindaba, she also ended up with the wrong package on arrival at the Swedish embassy. Again, let's not be too hard on the poor girls. Couple of decades later and it is still rather easy to get confused if you work for the South African postal services. Nombeko's original package might still be here:
In Sweden, Nombeko meets a man who theoretically does not exist. He does however have a twin brother who does have the necessary paperwork to proof his existence. The one who does exist's life ambition is to complete the task their late father could not do - kill the king of Sweden.
The intro of The girl who saved the king of Sweden states:
"The statistical probability than 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."Jonasson created a believably unbelievable story. Mainly due to the wonderful characters. Although some are a bit strange, idiotic and an angry young woman who find themselves in some rather unrealistic situations, these characters are real. Same as with The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared, Jonasson creates characters who you feel connected to, even though you know you should have been rather condescending towards a few of them. Although he didn't "create" a number of characters in both these novels, Jonasson gives them characteristics that makes you love them even more. Or hate them ever more.
If you're looking for a quirky history lesson on a bit of South Africa and Sweden, this is the book to read. Throw in Jonasson's humorous writing style and crazy plots and turns and you are left with an unforgettable comedy of errors. I definitely recommend this one for a full on laugh that will earn you odd looks in public places.
Photos from news24.com and news.xinhuanet.com