* CONTAINS SPOILERS
(THIS IS A SPOILER): Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s actually a woman in her mid-forties who saves the king.
A comedy of coincidences, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden takes place over thirty years in the life of Nombeko Mayeki and the Swedes who assist her in aforementioned saving (but don’t get any credit in the title). In the beginning, Nombeko is a teenage girl living in the Soweto slums of South Africa. She is incredibly intelligent, not afraid to challenge authority, and is quite capable of taking care of herself. After being hit by the car of an alcoholic engineer, Nombeko becomes a voluntary prisoner for almost ten years in a nuclear research facility. When one too many atomic bombs are manufactured, Nombeko finds herself and a bomb shipped off to Sweden where, unfortunately, she gets stuck with the bomb for the next twenty years. In Sweden, Nombeko’s life becomes entwined with twins with a serious identity problem, the girlfriend of one of the twins who is an angry anarchist in the making, her grandmother who may or may not be a countess, and various other characters, including the King of Sweden!
Jonas Jonasson writes in a very light-hearted style with lots of tongue-in-cheek, nudge-nudge wink-wink jokes, so it was a fun book to read. Due to its comedic nature, I can see this book easily being turned into a movie. I was impressed with Nombeko Mayeki as a capable female character, the tactful and quiet leader of the Swedish family she becomes a part of in the book. Since the story takes place over thirty years, another thing that impressed me was how Jonasson successfully infused the story with politics and history, so that I got quite an at-a-glance education on a number of issues and significant historical events.
I thought the book had a strong start, but after the first-half of the story things began to feel a little too drawn out. I started to become impatient with the characters as years would go by and nothing had changed either about them or the sticky situation they were in. How could there be zero character growth or maturity after thirty years? How could they sit around and do nothing about the bomb? Then as the next crazy incident happened and then the next, I felt that the story had devolved into groan-worthy silliness. But maybe that’s what the author intended and I was taking everything too seriously.
Even though I felt the story turned out to be a tad silly, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden proved to me that Mr. Jonasson has a wonderful imagination and great insight into the ways of the world and the stupidity of us human beans. I really liked how he added complexity by interweaving politics and history into the story. I think anyone who wanted a charming, light read would enjoy this book. In the meantime, I will look forward to movie.