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The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Review

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

The story of THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN begins in June 2007. The King and Prime Minister of Sweden have disappeared without a trace from a fancy banquet at the Royal Castle. Because Jonas Jonasson is known around the world for satire and complex stories filled with wit and a large cast of characters, their being missing causes all sorts of other waves in the universe that affect a whole bunch of other people. Like a little girl in Soweto a long time ago.

In 1961, the girl who saved the King of Sweden is born into poverty in Soweto. Her name is Nombeko, and she ends up with a childhood filled with hard labor; she is a sewage worker and suffers the requisite horrors that come from growing up in Johannesburg slums in those days. When she finally escapes, running away at the age of 15, she goes directly to the National Library in Pretoria. She ends up never getting there, instead being put to work for an engineer who is working on the nukes program for South Africa. She realizes that seven bombs have been made, one more than the six that were originally ordered.

"Jonasson combines the anarchistic tendencies of Thomas Pynchon with the broad, complicated but loving world of John Irving. It’s a real accomplishment to take a readers on a trip like this and give them what I can only describe as a fantastic journey outside of the realm of our real worlds."

Nombeko’s journey as a fugitive with secret knowledge sends her to Sweden, where she meets unlikely twins who offer her an opportunity to do something to help get the King of Sweden off his throne. The story continues with Mossad agents, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and other dignitaries who step up the action, ensuring that Nombeko and her friends will take you on a trip you won’t forget.

Jonasson is crazy. The things that he puts together should not work, but they do because his sense of both the absurd and the possible are so finely honed. Of the many conceits in the book that are far-fetched and test readers’ ability to suspend their disbelief, the idea of a set of identical twins in which one of them was never registered and so doesn’t officially exist in this world in which everyone has a target on them is the most insane. But somehow it works. Jonasson combines the anarchistic tendencies of Thomas Pynchon with the broad, complicated but loving world of John Irving. It’s a real accomplishment to take a readers on a trip like this and give them what I can only describe as a fantastic journey outside of the realm of our real worlds.

Nombeko is one of my favorite characters in recent literature. She is strong, kind and, like South Africa itself, resilient and hopeful in the face of pure nastiness. Jonasson rests this entire volume on her shoulders, and they are able to withstand the narrative weight without any problem. She is a heroine not necessarily for a modern age but for all ages. In my mind, she grows up to look like the ultimate Earth Mother.

THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN is unexpected, crazy and exuberant. Take it on vacation and you won’t be able to put it down. If you are on staycation this summer, you will feel like you’ve been to the Moon and back by the time you are done. It is trippy and gripping and all the things that good original art should be.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 2, 2014

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
by Jonas Jonasson

  • Publication Date: April 29, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 006232912X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062329127