Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson…

Stop with the loving on this book already!!! It’s not funny and it sure as hell isn’t entertaining! It has the dubious honour of being one of the worst books that I have ever read (and I have read a lot of books in my time). I’ll warn you now that there will be spoilers in this review so if that’s a problem, stop reading here.
I’ll start with a brief summary of the plot for you dear reader.
In 1961, Nombeko Mayeki is born a poor black girl in Soweto. She leaves the slums and a twist of fate – she is run over but survives – puts her into the employ of the engineer who ran her over, as a cleaner in South Africa’s secret nuclear weapons facility. Here, her good head for mathematics leads her to cover for her drunken and incompetent employer. Two Mossad agents eventually murder her employer, and she outwits them and escapes to Sweden, but due to a mixup, ends up in possession of a missing South African atom bomb. In Sweden, she settles in a bizarre commune including two unstable republicans determined to end the Swedish monarchy. Nombeko and her Swedish boyfriend are determined to hand the bomb over to the Swedish Prime Minister, but no-one will believe them. Years later, after several attempts to hand over the bomb have failed in absurd circumstances, the two republicans kidnap the King and the Prime Minister of Sweden from a gala banquet with Chinese premier Hu Jintao at the Royal Palace in Stockholm and prepare to blow up the bomb (and everything within a 38-mile radius) in order to end the monarchy. Nombeko calms the situation down, saving the King’s life, and her own.
We meet the protagonist of the story, Nombeko Mayeki at the age of 14 in her job as a latrine emptier. She does this to earn enough money to buy her mother paint thinner to drink and pills to swallow. It quickly becomes clear that Nombeko is highly intelligent and is soon a manager. Her mother dies, leaving the shack to Nombeko. Nombeko is taught to read by a pervy old man who has diamonds stuffed in the gaps in his gums and more buried in the floor of his hit. After his murder, Nombeko steals the diamonds and decides to head off to a big library in Pretoria. However, I just find this so hard to swallow. Nombeko is so intelligent that she comes across without warmth but with plenty of arrogance. It is, from the start, very difficult to warm to her even a little.
The chapter style is sporadic, jumping between two sets of characters and for a little while, two timelines as well. For me personally, this style of storytelling is irritating. We meet for the first time, Ingmar Qvist who, as a young boy meets the King of Sweden, and as an adult has a burning passion to shake his hand. Ingmar, not to put too fine a point on it, is barking mad. He irritates everyone, even the wife who loves him. He tries many ways and spends much money in futile attempts. Until one day, he meets him. Then has his dream crushed as the King knocks him on his ass. From this moment on, Ingmar descends deeper into madness and declares his life mission as having a son and him and his son bringing down the Swedish monarchy. Eventually, Henrietta gets pregnant. The result? Twins. In his madness, the deeply unlikeable Ingmar names both twins Holgar, but only registers the birth of the first, to ensure he can proliferate his lunatic ideas. The twins swap days at school, and on the days at home, dear Ingmar drums into them about how to create a republic. Oh, the twins came into the world on the exact same day as Nombeko.
We jump back and forth between Nombeko at the base and the Holgars, who by now have lost both parents. Nombeko reads the entire library at the base and is taught to speak Wu Chinese by three more irritating characters, the Chinese girls who deal with post.
Eventually Nombeko’s escape plan gets her to Sweden. By this point I’m thinking James f*****g Bond doesn’t see this much intrigue!
She meets the sane (but none existent) Holger and he takes her (and her atomic bomb) in. What kind of cockwomble takes in a stolen atomic bomb, knowing the Mossad could be after him? The plot gets more and more farcical by the page. For example: Holgar 1 (the loony one) takes a Mossad agent up in a helicopter, steals his gun without realising but then had the smarts to set the auto pilot to kill the agent, but is dumb enough to jump out of the helicopter at 2000 feet. He survives too, by falling through the roof of the brother’s pillow factory! Oh come on now! I told you the plot was farcical didn’t I?
The story limps along for another 20 years of Nombeko and Holger 2 trying to come up with ways to get rid of the atomic bomb that “accidentally” got sent to Sweden. The further the story limps along, the more irritated and annoyed with it I become. Maybe I’ve had a total sense of humour bypass but I didn’t find one part of this dirge of a book funny. The characters just don’t gel and the story just doesn’t flow at all.
As the climax of the story approaches, just when I think I can’t get any crosser, they manage to drive away with the King and the Prime Minister without anybody doing anything at all? Oh come on, enough with the bullshit already!!!
As I said, farcical much? The Chinese are also portrayed as having a peace loving, non human rights abusing government!!! On top of that, the bomb is gifted to the Chinese! What sane person gives a sodding atomic bomb TO Communist China?
Nombeko ends up a Swedish citizen and Holger ends up existing. After all that trouble, what do they do? Sod off back to South Africa!!!
I have never not finished a book before. But this one very nearly became the first. I’m giving this book 1 star purely because I’m unable to award a 0. Read this book at your own peril!!!

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson…

  1. RedHeadedBookLover

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