Sunday, 29 June 2014 | MYT 7:00 AM

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden

  • Author : Jonas Jonasson
  • Genre : Fiction
  • Publisher : HarperCollins


A quirky, laugh-inducing read

Nombeko Mayeki defies her fate – to grow up quickly and die young in the poverty-stricken South African town of Soweto – when she starts work at a sanitation company cleaning other people’s latrines. With hard work, smart thinking and a distinctly mathematical brain, Nombeko works her way up the ladder and is soon practically running the entire facility.

But a fateful meeting with a drunk engineer who almost runs her over derails her life....

Jonas Jonasson

Two other things happen that eventually involve Nombeko: The king and prime minister of Sweden go missing from a gala banquet. And a nuclear missile that isn’t supposed to exist falls into the wrong hands.

When Nombeko finds out about this missile, thanks to the drunk engineer, she is forced to flee not just from South African cops but also the world’s most terrifying secret service (yes, that’s Israel’s Mossad). Then she finds herself in Sweden, where she discovers it has become a nuclear nation, and the fate of the whole world now rests in her hands....

Anyone who read Jonas Jonasson’s debut novel, last year’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, will know that they’re in for a belly-good time with his latest outing. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is written in the same quirky, satirical style that made his debut an international bestseller.

There’s a certain brilliance to Jonasson’s satire. It’s as if he has embraced all of his craziness and churned it into this novel, which somehow manages to be hilarious and completely ludicrous, but with a moral fibre at the same time.

Nombeko is one of the more unconventional heroines in recent literature – and that’s a good thing. Despite the trials and tragedies she’s had in her life, she somehow manages to stay kind and positive and resilient. Again, Jonasson showcases his talent in creating a protagonist that’s a likeable, relatable character.

And the rest of the cast of characters is deliriously larger than life. Only in this novel will you find not only the king and prime minister of Sweden but also the late Nelson Mandela, US president Jimmy Carter, Mossad agents; a strange set of identical twins who go by Holger One and Two; three Chinese sisters who specialise in the “art” of poisoning dogs; and the drunk South African engineer who started it all. 

At one point, Nombeko finds herself in a potato truck with the king and the prime minister. The probability of that happening, according to the mathematically-inclined Nombeko, is 1 in 45,766,212,810.

Yes, it’s quite insane, but somehow, Jonasson makes it work brilliantly.

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is a surprising and often laugh-inducing read.

It’s unapologetic in its quirks but also well-written, and Jonasson proves himself to be a very observant author. Perhaps that’s what makes it so fun and exciting to read. Yet, it also leaves you with the deeper knowledge that all it takes is one person to change the fate of the world – even if that person is a latrine cleaner from South Africa.


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