The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
This is my second straight Jonas Jonasson and I have every intention of continuing this streak with the third and then the next unless I am otherwise hindered by the pace of his creating these marvelous pieces.
This is Jonas’ second book, the first one being the wittingly hilarious ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared’ (read my review of the book) but this is in no measure second to his first book in terms of the delight it passes on to its readers. And like his earlier book, TGWSKS is a heady concoction of a seemingly unreal plot and a medley of unseemly real political incidents.
The story starts in a ghetto in Soweto, South Africa’s largest shantytown, where Nombeko Mayeki, a 14 year old latrine emptier with 9 years of experience in latrine emptying gets the job of ‘manager of the latrine emptying in Soweto’s Sector B’ owing to the current manager’s dismissal due to a decision higher up and also because the one of the 2 more likely successors ‘had had his throat slit in a knife fight the previous evening’ and number two was untraceable and possibly having a relapse. And so the obvious choice (the word having stripped of all its meaning by now) remained Nombeko. We then swiftly follow Nombeko through the daily shit that her life was, both literally and metaphorically, managing illiterate black latrine emptiers in South Africa’s biggest shanty town. And if you have read a Jonas Jonasson before you would know that what follows will be a tale of immense incredibility more often than not bordering on stark reality and laced, along the way, with boundless mirth and culminating in uninhibited laughter but above all hope for all human kind.
The principal character in the story, Nombeko, is the atypical South African black born in a ghetto to a mother who had since long dedicated her life to drinking thinners to dull her pain. Nombeko refuses to take life as it is meant to come and ends up socializing with kings and presidents, striking fear into nations and influencing the development of the world in general.
“Nombeko’s mum died when the girl was ten years old, and, as mentioned earlier, there was no dad available. The girl considered taking over where her mum had left off: chemically building herself a permanent shield against reality. But when she received her first pay cheque after her mother’s death, she decided to buy something to eat instead. And when her hunger was alleviated, she looked around and said, ‘What am I doing here?’”
All the other characters that Jonas builds around the plot are a stereotypical farce of how we see the world, like the three Chinese girls, the two Israeli agents and a multitude of Swedes and other first, second, third and whatever world citizens. The story binds together world politics with the lives of the principal and all the supporting characters and creates a narrative that’s hard to put down even for a while. The most beautiful thing about the book is how it works on two different planes – in one assuring the reader that all is not lost with the world we live in whilst on the other, deeper level, how everything that can go wrong is actually going wrong in the world around us. And with his overtly simplified style of writing, Jonas creates another of his masterpieces. I could actually go on and on about the plot and the hilarious encounters of the characters and the delightful style of writing. But I wouldn’t do that because that would give away those unfathomable twists in the tales that Jonas has so intricately created.
But what I would do instead is vociferously recommend this book to any reader who has a heart for a good laugh and an appetite to see the world for all its worth. And ofcourse have a co-habitant who is not easily put off by sudden bursts of uncontrollable chortling.
And I shall leave you with the opening quote of the book which has more meaning now than ever before.
“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
Buy it on Amazon: The Girl Who saved the King of Sweden
Categories: book review