Posted by: billpurdue | June 29, 2014

Jonas Jonasson does it again.


I thoroughly enjoyed “The 100 Year Old Man who climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson and now he’s followed this up with “The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden”. The plot is just as complicated as the first book and there are many funny, if not laugh out loud, moments in this saga covering the period from 1975 up to the present. The action takes place in two very different places: first we find fourteen year old Nombeko Mayeki being given the job of latrine manager in South Africa during the apartheid era. Her luck changes when she is run over by a drunken engineer and is sentenced to be his assistant for seven years (the engineer was drunk,  Nombeko but being black, is seen as the cause of the accident), but will be confined to a secret atomic weapons facility. This is the beginning of her connection with an atomic bomb that is not supposed to exist. You’ll have to read the book for an explanation of that last statement.


Meanwhile in Sweden, some years before Nombeko was born, we have Ingmar Qvist whose mission in life is to shake the hand of the King of Sweden, Gustav V. However when he finally manages to meet the king, the encounter goes badly wrong and Ingmar feels rejected. Immediately he becomes a supporter of the republican movement. He doesn’t think he will achieve his new goal of getting rid of the monarchy in his lifetime, so he hopes for a son to carry on his task after his death. Instead his wife presents him with twin boys, and it is these two men, whom Nombeko eventually meets (with Mossad on her tail and three Chinese sisters in tow, who are expert at making brand new patterned pottery geese from the Han Dynasty- oh and good at poisoning dogs too).


I could go on, but there isn’t room here for a thorough summary of the plot and I fear I may not have done the beginnings of it much justice. There are so many twists and turns, that the reader really has to pay attention, but it’s not much of an imposition as it’s a fascinating plot. The reviewer in the Observer puts it very nicely when she says “The faux-naive style makes light and frothy work of weighty events: take nothing seriously is the refreshing subtext. At the heart of this very likable book is the notion that even someone from the humblest of origins can have a gigantic impact on life.” I’m looking forward to what Jonas Jonasson will come up with next.

By the way the film adaptation of “The 100 year old Man…” will be released in the UK on July 4th.


A railway bookshop worth a try


A friend of mine has passed on a link for the website of Nigel Bird Books ( a shop situated deep in rural Wales due north of Lampeter and about 20 miles south of Aberystwyth. According to the website Nigel and Sue Bird set up the shop in 1985 and they now offer a mail order service via their website or on Ebay. Look out also for the Nigel Bird stall at railway events and galas. Their current stock is around 7000 items with 4000 of those listed on their website. These include rare, out of print, used and new railway titles.


The website has a section marked “Crumbs”, which is chiefly a selection of photos of Nigel at several railway locations, but the first photo is of him ‘modelling ‘ his “infamous” T-shirt which bears the wording “It’s a railway station, not a train station”. I would certainly agree with that statement.

Nigels new T shirtNigel Bird in his “infamous” T-shirt.

Nigel and Sue are currently clearing out some older stock and are offering 20% discount, or for loyalty club members, 30% off. See the website for details.

Talking of railways, I’ve just read a book, which claims that British Rail, when publicly owned, was success. Am I convinced ? – I’ll tell you next time.


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