Published by Fourth Estate on April 24th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Humor
Source: Book Club
Buy on Amazon
Just because the world ignores you, doesn’t mean you can’t save it . . .
Nombeko Mayeki was never meant to be a hero. Born in a Soweto shack, she seemed destined for a short, hard life. But now she is on the run from the world ‘s most ruthless secret service, with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden - and the world - rests on her shoulders.
On June 14th, 2007, the King and Prime Minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the Royal Castle. Later it was said that both had fallen ill: the truth is different. The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto. Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township. But Nombeko takes a different path. She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the position of chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world's most secret projects.
Here is where the story merges with, then diverges from reality. South Africa developed six nuclear missiles in the 1980s, then voluntarily dismantled them in 1994. This is a story about the seventh missile . . . the one that was never supposed to have existed. Nombeko Mayeki knows too much about it, and now she's on the run from both the South African justice and the most terrifying secret service in the world. She ends up in Sweden, which has transformed into a nuclear nation, and the fate of the world now lies in Nombeko's hands.
As predicted, Jonas Jonasson did not disappoint with his second novel, The girl who saved the king of Sweden. Being a South African myself, there were certain aspects of this novel I’ve enjoyed even more than its predecessor The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.
BUT Nombeko was clever and smart enough to make a fool of her oppressor who was less than smart. In fact, he has made a rather troublesome mathematical error…. Let’s not be too hard on Engineer van der Westhuizen. A couple of decades have passed and it appears as if certain high-up officials still find numbers a bit troublesome here in good old South Africa.
Nombeko knows about Engineer van der Westhuizen’s small counting problem and uses her wit and intelligence to outsmart the engineer and two Mossad agents and escape to Sweden. Due to a mixup caused by three Chinese sisters who were in charge of postal services at Pelindaba, she also ended up with the wrong package on arrival at the Swedish embassy. Again, let’s not be too hard on the poor girls. Couple of decades later and it is still rather easy to get confused if you work for the South African postal services. Nombeko’s original package might still be here:
The intro of The girl who saved the king of Sweden states:
“The statistical probability than an illiterate in 1970s Soweto will grow up and one day find herself confined in a potato truck with the Swedish king and prime minister is 1 in 45,766,212,810.”
Jonasson created a believably unbelievable story. Mainly due to the wonderful characters. Although some are a bit strange, idiotic and an angry young woman who find themselves in some rather unrealistic situations, these characters are real. Same as with The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared, Jonasson creates characters who you feel connected to, even though you know you should have been rather condescending towards a few of them. Although he didn’t “create” a number of characters in both these novels, Jonasson gives them characteristics that makes you love them even more. Or hate them ever more.
If you’re looking for a quirky history lesson on a bit of South Africa and Sweden, this is the book to read. Throw in Jonasson’s humorous writing style and crazy plots and turns and you are left with an unforgettable comedy of errors. I definitely recommend this one for a full on laugh that will earn you odd looks in public places.