A very dear friend of mine is Swedish and is always trying to get me to improve on my Swedish language skills so that I can move there and be near her forever.
So far I can say “my name is Eva” and “trick or treat” so I’m really getting somewhere.
But she lets all this go if I just keep reading Swedish literature. This week I gained some more points reading Jonas Jonasson’s follow up to The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden combines some of my favourite things: royalty, Swedes and sarcasm. In it we meet Nombeko, born in the slums of Soweto in South Africa, who manages to learn how to read before being put in charge of a sanitation facility at the age of 12 until she runs away to Johannesburg where she is hit by a car driven by a drunk engineer. Since it was her fault he hit her (she was on the sidewalk after all) she is sentenced to 9 years of servitude at the engineer’s nuclear weapons facility. The engineer is a complete halfwit so it falls to Nombeko to undertake diplomatic relations, handle the Mossad and work out the nuclear calculations necessary to be in charge of a nuclear weapons facility.
Eventually she ends up in Sweden where her life becomes intertwined with twins, Holger One and Holger Two. One is obsessed with deposing the monarchy while Two doesn’t technically exist but was dealt all the brains in the family.
Once again Jonasson has created an unlikely cast of characters, deeply flawed but a total delight. This time most of them were idiots but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to spend time with them. He also comes up with a string of plans and plots, each more unlikely than the next, most doomed to fail.
I was personally delighted when His Majesty, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden himself made a completely ridiculous and charming appearance in the book. It left me wondering if he has read the book or is even aware of it and if so, what does he think? Can someone find out for me?
Jonasson has clearly perfected the art of the mad cap adventure, leading readers through a host of impossible scenarios before delivering a perfectly wrapped up ending. There are very few sarcastic authors out there – it’s not easy to convey sarcasm without tone of voice – but Jonasson is among the best.