• Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Jonas Jonasson was born in 1961 and raised in the city of Växjö in southern Sweden. He studied Swedish and Spanish at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. After completing his studies, he worked as a journalist for numerous newspapers and later founded a media company, which he sold in 2003 for health reasons and then dedicated his time to writing.

To date, Jonasson has written three books. He has received several awards and his work has been translated into several languages. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, his second novel, was published in Swedish in 2013 and English in 2014. A feature film of the book is in the making by Icelandic producer, Joni Sighvatsson.

Since his divorce in 2010 Jonasson has been living with his son on Gotland island, a large Swedish island province in the Baltic Sea.

The story of The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden starts in South Africa during the apartheid era in nineteen sixty-one when the leading character, Nombeko Mayeki, is born in the Soweto slums, Africa’s largest shanty town, twenty kilometres away from Johannesburg. She is an illiterate, black South African girl, who is now fourteen-years-old but looks like twelve and who can add and subtract.

Nombeko has been a hard-working child since the tender age of five when she carried latrine barrels to earn a small amount of money to pay for her mother’s paint thinner addiction. The little girl becomes an orphan at the age of ten.

Nombeko’s father has been absent since impregnating her mother. Through unpredicted circumstances, Nombeko gets appointed as a manager’s assistant of latrine emptying by the twenty-three-year-old white, condescending new assistant, Piet du Toit. He is a university graduate, who comes to work with the bodyguard employed by his art-dealer father.

From this point on, the reader follows Nombeko through all her trials and tribulations. How she meets the smug Thabo, who teaches her to read. How she gets run over by Engelbrecht van der Westhuizen, a drunken engineer, while walking on the pavement in Johannesburg, yet survives. Nevertheless, the South African apartheid court, unfairly sentences her to work seven years for free as a cleaner for the faulty, drunken, fraudulent white engineer, Westhuizen. Engelbrecht Westhuizen, who happens to be in charge of the South African nuclear weapons facility, then regarded as the world’s most secret project.

The first chapter of the novel introduces the reader to young Nombeko’s miserable life in Soweto in South Africa. In the second chapter we are transported six thousand miles away to Sweden and introduced to Ingmar Qvist from Södertälje, his wife, Henrietta and in later chapters to his twin boys, Holger One and Holger Two.

The author alternates the unlinked chapters between South Africa and Sweden until Nombeko emigrates to Sweden and fortuitously finds herself sharing the life of the twin brothers, Holger One and Holger Two.

The twin brothers were raised by their father to eliminate the Swedish monarchy. Nombeko will also get acquainted with Holger One’s young, angry anarchist girlfriend, Celestine. That is when the two separate stories – in South Africa and Sweden – become one to be continued in Sweden.

Through her work behind the scenes as a chief advisor to the incompetent, drunken engineer, van der Westhuizen in Johannesburg, Nombeko gets involved with two agents of the Israeli “Mossad”, an Israeli intelligence agency. The two Mossad agents murder van der Westhuizen and endeavour, with the help of Nombeko, to steal the seventh atomic bomb that was never supposed to have existed and which was kept covertly hidden in a back office room.

The bright young girl circumvents the two Mossad agents and flees to Sweden, smuggling a stash of diamonds worth millions retrieved from Thabo’s shack after his untimely murder by two East African women thieves. It is thanks to Thabo’s tuition that Nombeko learned how to read and write.

In Sweden, Nombeko’s fate will change; but her nightmare continues because she is now unintentionally and therefore secretly in charge of an unaccounted-for seventh South African atomic bomb. This atomic bomb was shipped from South Africa by mistake to Sweden instead of to Israel.

Nombeko and her Swedish companion, Holger Two, struggle stealthily to dispose of this unwelcome burden. Through several difficult obstacles and with the help of the Chinese president, Nombeko and Holger Two send the atomic bomb to China and through different twists, save the life of the kidnapped king of Sweden and his prime minister.

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is a novel with a long title that gives away the dénouement of the story. It is a humorous, farcical, captivating, thrilling adventure, original in its imaginative events.

The author cleverly intertwines fiction with reality by using some specific political fact-based occurrences and names of politicians and monarchs, both of the time and earlier. For example, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, the prime minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, the king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, the American president, Jimmy Carter and the late king Gustav III (1771- 1792), Gustav IV Adolf (1792-1809) and Gustaf V (1907-1950).

The author touches on many subjects such as the apartheid, ambition and hope, colonialism, racism, communism, the tension during the cold war involving the arms race of some countries to gain supremacy by obtaining nuclear weapons. The author addresses all these themes in the novel in a masterful way despite the coincidental, chaotic happenings.

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is an enjoyably entertaining book about an exceptional woman, whose life had been marked by close defeats and valiant rewarded efforts.

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Category: Book Reviews
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