What a unique read this has been! My previous peruses have ranged from non-fiction, to dystopia all the way to popular fiction. This book, although being popular fiction, would more likely be classified as picaresque.
That’s right, I have not heard of this genre before but man I have been missing out! The closest juxtaposition to Jonasson I have found would be Wes Anderson, a film director responsible for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. If you are not familiar with Wes Anderson I suggest you take a peak at the trailer below, to give you an idea of what I am referring too:
Wasn’t that brilliant?
Correct Answer: Yes.
It’s littered with farcical implausibility; exactly what Jonas Jonasson’s novel encompasses. The reader follows the life of a girl born in a shack in a small African shanty, who, thanks to her incredible numeracy talent, general cleverness and sheer luck, manages to leave behind her latrine cleaner position, gets hit by a car, and becomes a prisoner to a drunken and incapable missile engineer. All that (and more!) in a mere 50 pages. Eventually she ends up in Sweden, with a bomb, three Chinese sisters and a coat hiding precious diamonds. How random is that? To say the novel is plot driven is an understatement.
Written in third person, you are not going to get much of character’s thoughts. Frankly, even when we do it’s to either highlight the absurdity, stupidity or cleverness of the characters. The characters are very black and white (figuratively speaking). They are either crazy lunatics, or practical/clever masterminds.
As a history junkie, one of my favourite aspects of the novel is how Jonasson peppers the narrative with real historic happenings; very sarcastically highlighting the absurdity of the world.
“The world went on revolving around its sun at the constant speed and with the inconstant temper it always had…in Sweden, the Russian president had become most famous for the state visit on which he was so blotto that he demanded that the country, which had no coal power plants, must close all its coal power plants…[and] Bush later invaded Iraq in order to eliminate all the weapons Saddam Hussein didn’t have…” (296)
It’s hard to miss the irony and criticism of the modern world after reading that passage. But it is absolutely brilliant, and made me chuckle a handful of times. In anther instance, the drunken engineer, for whom Nombeko is imprisoned, makes seven bombs instead of the ordered six because he is too drunk to realize his mistake until they have been completed.
Verdict: Entertaining, witty, sarcastic, plot driven novel that is easy to get through and should be a must read for everyone. If you particularly enjoy sentimental, first-person, character development type reads, I wouldn’t particularly choose this one, but even then I think this unique read is worth your time!
Have you read a picaresque book before? What was it called?