Well it finally happened, I came across a book this year that I actively did not enjoy. I tried, I tried really hard to enjoy it. I had heard good things prior to reading it and Jonasson’s first novel comes highly acclaimed but unfortunately The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden just was not my cup of tea. In short this book follows Nombeko, a South African girl who starts her life in the slums and things go from bad to worse when she is hit by a drunk engineer and sentenced to working off her debts to him for seven years. Lucky for Nombeko she is incredibly smart and schemes her way out of service and into Sweden. There she runs in to Holger Two, the twin who technically doesn’t exist thanks to his crazy obsessed father. Throw in an atomic bomb, an idiotic brother and Israeli Mossad agents and you have a lot things that can go wrong and go wrong they did.
My first issue with the book was there was a lot of political background of not only the countries where the story was set but of the whole world at the time. I understand that the political climate of the time was related to the plot but I found the excessive detail distracting and irritating at times. I also wasn’t a fan of the tone of the novel. I can appreciate how other may enjoy it and in a different novel I may enjoy the style but the detached conversational tone seemed to jump from one thought process to another and go off on tangents than seemed to get further and further away from the original story.
While there were a range of vivid and intriguing characters in the story I found the protagonists were hard to get to know beyond a superficial level. Not once did I find myself truly feeling for Nombeko and Holger. They didn’t seem to want their life together enough to go out there and get it together. Instead they ambled along from problem to problem. There was no passion, no zest and I found it difficult to really care about their outcome. The range of supporting characters were loveable and hilarious but they could’t make up for the other shortcoming of the novel for me.
My last issue was that the whole novel just seemed like a comedy of errors. One thing went wrong after another to the extent that it all just seemed ridiculous. How can so many things go wrong for two people? I found myself forcing the last part of the book down feeling exasperated when the next problem occurred. I really hope that I’m missing some big message in the overall story, something that ties it all together as I hate being so negative about a book. I can appreciate how people will enjoy it, the style just did not suit me.
I give the Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden two of the diamonds that initially brought Nombeko luck, if only it had continued.