Monday, October 3, 2016

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

by Jonas Jonasson
387 pgs

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden shares the same sense of quirkiness and absurdity that made its predecessor The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared so enjoyable.

It’s the story of Nombeko Mayeki, a 14-year-old latrine cleaner in South Africa during the period of apartheid. Because of her race, Nombeko is presumed to be illiterate, when in fact, she is very intelligent. She has a gift for numbers and quickly gets noticed by her supervisor, who uses her to hide his own ineptitude. 

Nombeko’s station in life gradually begins to improve in stages, as she gets a job as the housemaid of the engineer in charge of South Africa’s secret nuclear weapons program.

Through a series of events that are better to read about directly from the book, Nombeko comes into possession of a nuclear warhead, one that there is no record of ever having been built.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, Ingmar Qvist has a life-long obsession with abolishing the Swedish monarchy. He has identical twin sons whom he has indoctrinated into his cause. He named them Holger One and Holger Two. Holger One is incompetent, and Holger Two officially doesn’t exist. Nombeko, an illegal immigrant, doesn’t officially exist either.

Having created three things that officially don’t exist: Nombeko, Holger Two, and a nuclear warhead, Jonasson proceeds to tell an entertaining story about how those three come together in a way only a supreme being with a sense of humor could have orchestrated.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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