For followers of the blog you’ll remember I reviewed the first of Jonas Jonasson’s books, The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, back in April. A fun, clever and surprisingly complicated story written in a distinctive quirky style. I gave it four or even five stars on Goodreads. Jonasson’s second novel, The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden, is written in his same distinctive style, with the same entwining, complicated and slightly absurd storyline. So much so that I felt it was a carbon copy. I felt like I had read this before and while I think Jonasson is very clever he is also at risk of becoming a one trick pony.
This time his central characters are a young, black South African woman by the name of Nombeko Mayeki and Holgar Two, a Swedish man who doesn’t really exist. The two stories – of Nombeko and Holger Two – begin considerably far apart in both geography and circumstance, but Jonasson gradually brings them together before they eventually become a team, intent of saving the world, Sweden, or at least the 32 mile radius from their position, from nuclear disaster. Of course there is a cast of wildly implausible secondary characters as there was in the One Hundred Year Old Man, including the King of Sweden, the Swedish Prime Minister and the Chinese President, Holger Two’s twin Holger One and his angry young girlfriend, Celeste.
Jonasson has reined this story in slightly more than in his first book, which I did appreciate – moving from one crazy situation with a despotic world leader to another did wear just a little thin last time, though it was also very funny – however Nombeko wasn’t nearly as interesting or likable as Allen Karlsson was.
This book was one I read for book club and the table was divided in their opinions. Myself and another member felt similarly, though we had both read the first Jonasson within the last six months. The other two members enjoyed it much more – one having read the first book well over a year ago and the other not at all. I’m sure if this was my first foray into Jonasson’s writing I would have enjoyed it as much as I did reading his first, but as it was I had to force myself to finish it and became quite annoyed at reading the same jokes over again.
So if you’ve not read any Jonasson’s before, by all means pick this one up. It will be a light, easy yet clever and witty book – as long as you’re comfortable with the absurd. But if you’ve read The One Hundred Year Old Man already either don’t bother with it or leave it a good long time between them!
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