Shelf Control is a weekly celebration hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies, of the unread books on our shelves. Lisa says: “Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.”
Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!
This is now my fourth time doing this, and I’m thinking it might become habit forming!
When I stepped up to my shelves and found this book, I frankly couldn’t remember buying it. So, once again – Surprise! I have a feeling that we must have gotten this back when we became fans of Fredrik Backman, and figured, why not take a look at other Scandinavian authors. I did read, and enjoyed, “The Little Old Lady who Broke All the Rules” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, but it wasn’t a WOW novel. Just good fun, although at the time I thought I’d get more of her books, but I never did. Back to this book, I know I must have read some reviews of this novel, and/or his debut novel “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared,” but I don’t recall if they were all that positive or not.
Now, I know absolutely nothing about how Jonasson writes, so first off, let’s look at the blurb for this on Goodreads, which is as follows:
Nombeko Mayeki was never meant to be a hero. Born in a Soweto shack, she seemed destined for a short, hard life. But now she is on the run from the world‘s most ruthless secret service, with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders.
Well, that sounds confusing, and extremely random. However, I notice that on the back of my edition, there’s more:
Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko is destined for a short, hard life. When she is run over by a drunken engineer, her luck changes. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she is sent to work for the driver – the brandy-soaked head of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko may be good at cleaning, but she’s amazing with numbers. The drunken engineer isn’t – and has made a big mistake. And only Nombeko knows about it…
Oh, now this sounds very far fetched (I wonder… Can someone become an engineer if they aren’t at least good at numbers at a higher than average level)? Hm… I’m having doubts here. So… Let’s take a look at the opening piece which appears before the first chapter.
The Statistical probability that an illiterate in 1970s Soweto will grow up and one day find herself confined in a potato truck with the Swedish king and prime minister is 1 in 45,766,212,810.
According to the calculations of the aforementioned illiterate herself.
Well, that doesn’t give me much more to go on, nor does it help with my confusion. Mind you, you don’t really have to be literate to be truly proficient with numbers. However, I wonder if this ability is as totally innate as this sounds – correct me if I’m wrong. Moving on to Chapter 1, which is entitled “On a girl in a shack and the man who posthumously helped her escape it,” the first paragraphs that follow are these:
In some ways they were lucky, the latrine emptiers in South Africa’s largest shantytown. After all, they had both a job and a roof over their heads.
On the other hand, from a statistical perspective they had no future. Most of them would die young of tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, pills, alcohol or a combination of these. One or two of them might get to experience his fiftieth birthday. The manager of one of the latrine offices in Soweto was one example. But he was both sickly and worn-out. He’d started washing down far too many painkillers with far too many beers, far too early in the day. As a result, he happened to lash out at a representative of the City of Johannesburg Sanitation Department who had been dispatched to the office. A Kaffir who didn’t know his place. The incident was reported all the way up to the unit director in Johannesburg, who announced the next day, during the morning coffee break with his colleagues, that it was time to replace the illiterate in Sector B.
Okay so… this sounds very dismal. Now, I have no problem with a heartbreaking novel, but Goodreads also says that this is as “uproariously funny as Jonas Jonasson’s bestselling debut,” and I can’t help feeling that it would take a whole lot to change this level of misery into something funny. Plus, if you don’t mind my saying so, it also sounds a bit… racist. I mean, why is this very white Swedish guy writing about some poor African girl? To be totally honest, all this together is giving me a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m not overly anxious to read further in order to get to the first joke. So…
My verdict is…
I think I’ll DROP this one from my TBR list!
From what I’ve put here, would you read it? Have you read it? If so, would you recommend it?
You still want to buy this book you can find it via the following (affiliate) links: Amazon, Bookshop.org, UK.Bookshop, iTunes (iBook and iAudiobook), Indiebound, Alibris, Kobo (eBooks and audiobooks), Better World Books, Booksamillion, eBooks.com, Foyles, The Book Depository (UK and US), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery (UK and US).
Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:
- Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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- Check out other posts, and…