I’m a little behind with Book Club updates… This title was actually read back in Aug/Sept, and I myself had already read it some months previously. There was no way I couldn’t read it, and there was no way we couldn’t choose to read it for Book Club. The author’s previous novel, The 100 Year Old man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, was so much enjoyed by us all that it is considered “possibly the best Book Club book we have ever read.”
So, did The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden match up? In a word, no, but that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it. It takes a similar format to its predecessor, and Jonasson clearly has a distinctive writing style that serves him well. As a child, Nombeko learns to be independent, and through a combination of hard work, bizarre coincidences and wit, she removes herself from a life of working in the public toilets of Soweto to protecting the King of Sweden from a bungled terrorist attack. Along the way she overcomes many hardships, becomes involved in various historical events, and makes several unusual and humorous friends, who help her out at various points, either deliberately or by happy accident.
So far so good, and so familiar, for anyone who read The 100 Year Old Man – a similarly funny and enjoyable read. Jonasson has a skill in creating underdog characters that the reader really gets behind, and the secondary characters are a wonderful mix of humorous, stupid, intelligent, likeable and unlikeable, sometimes all at the same time. He weaves historical detail into the plot in a way that’s entertaining, not dull. The similarities to The 100 Year Old Man are obvious, though, and although you might say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” it would have been better to me if some aspects of the writing style were changed just a little. I must confess I did get a bit bored about two thirds of the way through – the years were passing rapidly, The Girl was no longer a girl, and there was little sign of the King of Sweden. It did pick up towards the end, but I feel the book as a whole could have benefitted from a change of pace. Three and a half stars.