Author of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson has returned with a stellar second novel. It’s that same kind of quirky calamities with groups of colourful characters – but this time it was one of the authors who started he revolution that saw books like Lost and Found become popular.
This one is about Nombeko, an illiterate from a shack in Soweto who learns to read and, as the title suggests, subsequently saved the king and indeed the rest of Sweden after it turns out she has a knack for reading, numbers and intelligent thought. While Nombeko starts her life in the slums, she soon finds her way to being the first sanitation official, she is destined to greater things and a fistful of diamonds and a drunken engineer later finds herself in a top secret military base where South Africa are attempting to make atomic weapons.
Meanwhile in Sweden, Holger and Holger, twins of which only one really exists are continuing their fathers life work of destroying the King of Sweden. Holger Two is sensible, Holger One is not, and a series of calamities befall them such that they end up living in a condemned building and running a pillow business for a living. A series of even greater and unlikely events leads them to cross paths with Nombeko and as the title suggests, the group ultimately save the life of the king and the rest of Sweden.
Lost? I don’t blame you. In the rise of books with quirky characters and outlandish story lines, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and its predecessor, are some of the more complex, historically detailed and thrilling tomes you’ll find. It has the skill of making characters and events which are inherently extraordinary, seem normal. That one would find a set of twins both called Holger, that a girl from a shack in Soweto would find her way to Sweden with diamonds sewn into her coat or really any of the events in the story should even happen at all. Don’t get me wrong, this is a strength of the novel. The characters are so complex and well constructed that you can accept without falter a matter of fact explanation as to how they came across millions of dollars, just as easily as you could the explanation that they had toast for breakfast, or enjoyed reading books at the library.
This is a fast paced, complex read. It encompasses the historical and the flourishes artistic license allows gives one to manipulate it. Ultimately it encompasses endearing characters who find themselves in some very sticky situations, if you’re a fan of a good read and a bit of eccentricity and quirkiness in your fiction, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden may just be the book for you.
Book Conversation Points:
Which character did you identify with most and why?
If you read his first novel, how did you think it compared with his second?
Did you find the unlikely turn of events compelling?
Do you think this type of quirky misadventure novel had a place in modern literature?
Come join us next month as we read The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith