Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

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1thegirl

Published: 2014

Genre: Picaresque

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.

Pica-who?

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?

Very Inspiring Blogger Award Nomination!!

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I have been nominated by this wonderful gal named Alena, for the Very Inspiring Blogger award! This is a huge honor and I am eternally grateful, especially since I have only recently started blogging. To hear such positive feedback as getting this nomination makes me feel very welcome and just feel like I belong amongst all you pro book review bloggers. Anyway, enough with my soppy speech (this isn’t the Oscars after all) lets get to the rules.

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Rules:

1)     Thank and link the amazing person who nominated you.

2)     List the rules and display the award.

3)     Share seven facts about yourself.

4)     Nominate 10 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5)     Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven Random Facts About Me:

1) I am a major horse lover and have been from an early age. You mention ‘horse’ and I reply ‘WHERE?’

2) I have lived in three different countries during my lifetime. That means I have gone to 9 different schools during all my moves.

3) Muller chocolate rice pudding is my absolute favourite.

4) Blue bells are under-rated. They, along with orchids, are one of my favourite flowers.

5) During my last year at high school, I was part of the Miss New Westminster Ambassador Program. Kind of like a pageant mixed with community involvement.

6) I strongly believe in the “Actions speak louder than words”motto.

7) I have started working since I was 15 (8 if you count delivering newspapers) so I would like to think that I have earned the majority of things I have in my life. It’s something that I have only recently realized I should be proud of.

Nominees:I know that it says I am to nominate 15 people, but I have only made a list of 11 here and I do apologize if I have nominated some people again, from the Leibster award. When deciding who to nominated I really thought hard about who I have really connected over the past few months, who I found really inspiring, who has been really nice to me, and whose posts I just can’t get enough! Can’t wait to hear your responses guys! (Alphabetical order)

ThePaperbackPrincess: With such an awesome and clever name you know you cannot be disappointed! What I absolutely love is her honesty and versatility. Not only does she do book reviews but she also finds the time to post and spark conversations about something literature related.

Self-Harmonise: Very open, kind and creative individual! I love reading her posts because they are always so raw, honest and creative. Love reading her poetry too!

WriteReads: These incredible people have started their very own book club podcasts! How cool is that?! Again, super brave and definitely inspirational!

Citygirlscapes: These girls are on fire! I am always amazed at how quickly they read and manage to post reviews. Their archives are very impressive and always fun to peruse to get some more book ideas 🙂

OneMorePage: Believe it or not she inspired for me to start a blog.*blush* Of course I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn but I continue to be inspired by her blog, and I she always seems to choose great books to read!

Stepheusebi: Amazingly delicious and tasty recipes all in one place! Whenever I am feeling adventurous I try a recipe that she posts here. My number one blog for recipes 🙂

BonnieVBrown: She is such a sweet girl with an blog that reflects that! Love her honestly and writing style 🙂

MeLoveBooks: I absolutely love how she structures her reviews and it has made me re-evaluate how I present my reviews on my blog. I love that fact she updates her followers on what she is doing. I really need to work on that.

746books: Love how she integrates quotes from the novels she is reviewing in the review. It’s something I really struggle with and so it’s really inspirational!

RecklessIndulgence: Love her honesty (with her reviews named “Totally Biased Book Reviews” LOL), and humour! For fantasy lovers, I could not recommend a better blog.

Miss Meg 33: This girl is absolutely incredible and so incredible. I am a runner and I struggle with keeping myself motivated. Reading her blog helps me decide to strap on those running shoes and head out the door!

 

Can’t wait to hear your top 7 things!

Review: Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories by Thomas Mann

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Published: 1954

The day has finally come!! I have finally, after much groaning, whining and butt-kicking, finished this book! That should give you an idea of my impression of these stories by Thomas Mann.

I started off just set on reading the first and main story of the compilation, “Death in Venice” but that story terminated only after 73 pages and so my frugal and perfectionist self had to finish the entire work. I really dislike starting something and then not fully completing it. It makes me feel like a cheater. Plus I may have cajoled myself into thinking that the next tale would be better, which if it had been true, would have enabled me to have breezed through the whole 400 pages in no time!

Sadly, that never happened. Let me just clarify. The first and main story, “Death is Venice” was a great read. I found myself fascinated with the inner workings of the main character Gustav von Aschenbach, a fifty-five year old celebrated German writer who travels to Venice and gets completely enamoured/obsessed with a fourteen year old Hungarian boy named Tadzio. From the moment he lays his eyes on him he is completely overwhelmed by his physical beauty, and throughout the narration compares him to a Greek sculpture and describes in detail the beauty of parts of his body. His initial appreciation of his beauty quickly turns into a disturbing obsession when he starts to plan his day around where he will be and engages in stalker behaviour. Throughout the entire story he never once approaches him, touches him or interacts with Tadzio, keeping his orgiastic Dionysian dreams to himself. Yet, his world and time is completely consumed by this human. I don’t want to give much more away, but that is the premise of the story. Although disturbing from one end, it is also fascinating to see the man completed crumble and alter his life just because of this young adolescent doesn’t give him more than a quick smile. There is very little dialogue and interactions, rather it focuses in on Aschenbach’s obsession, thought process and personal struggle. This was truly a fascinating read.

The other stories were not so much. Often he gives excessive details about the minute of things. His “Man and His Dog” is a superb example of this. He describes the dog’s entire life in detail; his mannerisms, behaviour, characteristics, confirmation, etc. To the point where any idea of plot disappears and it begins to read like a personal journal entry. There is rarely a purpose to his long detailed descriptions and frequently I found myself having to re-read long paragraphs simply because I zoned out and became disengaged.

The other frustrating element was that the stories often started off as engaging but then turned mundane a few pages later. They started off with a lot of promise, and then that was overshadowed by excessive, pointless details about every aspect of a character’s behaviour and past. Unlike in the “Death in Venice”, most of his stories have more than two characters, so the descriptions get quickly tiring. I understand character development is important, but so is having a point to your story. Frequently, that was very ambiguous.

Having said all that, his diction is out of this world. Very Victorian, in his choice of vocabulary, yet also had that modernist sentiment beginning to sprout (Nietzsche’s philosophy and Freud’s theories in psychology being the main elements here). He has a rich vocabulary to say the least and that made me really pleased. There is nothing like capturing the perfect moment with a mere few strong and rich terms. Makes me all giddy!

Just a reminder, this is my impression of this book. I completely accept and understand that some people enjoy reading these types of stories, so please refrain from badgering me about my opinion. This is my sole opinion of this work, and I understand and accept that others may have another opinion. That’s all 🙂

Verdict: Definitely read “Death in Venice” because I really enjoyed that story. It’s only 70+ pages so it’s a quick read and the characters are really interesting. He touches on a topic similarly covered in Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita. The other stories maybe just browse through one/two of them and if they don’t strike your fancy I wouldn’t bother with the rest.

Was there a book you have read that you didn’t engage with well? Why do you think that was? Leave a comment below, I am very interested in hearing your experiences 🙂