The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, by Jonas Jonasson, is a fast-paced, action-filled and very entertaining book. If it were a film, it would be a cross between Pulp Fiction and Johnny English. The action is ever-present and the main characters rely heavily on luck and incredible (and ceaselessly) circumstantial coincidences.
An unlikely heroine, the main character is a very poor black South African woman, born during the era when Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and still considered a terrorist by many. This uneducated, yet utterly enterprising, young woman takes every opportunity that comes her way to better herself and her position in life.
Her personal insurance policy lies in a stash of rough diamonds obtained through dubious means that are sewn into the seams of her one and only jacket. The fortunate and accidental meeting with an inebriated half-wit engineer, combined with the fickle South African court system, results in her being indentured into his household. The impact of this one accident is long-lasting and ultimately allows her to escape to Sweden.
At times, this story is almost unbelievable; but it is so cleverly written and full of understated dry Swedish wit that the overabundance of curious coincidence is relished by the reader rather than spurned. If I had a single complaint – and it would be a minor one – it would be the pace, which, especially at the end, is relentless. I was exhausted reading the last section of the book as the action just kept coming. I felt, at times, it could’ve done with a pause button.
That The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden was originally penned in Swedish is not at all apparent – obviously largely due to a splendid translation. None of the Swedish Jonasson’s satirical voice is lost, yet it reads like a novel written in the English language. So much so, that I Googled the book (and author) as I was utterly convinced he must have written it in English. He did not.
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a highly recommended, entertaining read. I am now going to seek out Jonasson’s first novel.