My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I think I have to apologize to that french cop who wrote that awful, awful, AWFUL book about the fakir and the IKEA cabinet, because at the time I thought to myself "wow, he's trying to be Jonas Jonasson and failing spectacularly", but after reading that I take it back: he did indeed do a fine job of copying Jonasson, I just didn't know that was a bad thing.
Don't get me wrong: I love The 100-Year Old as much as the next person, and I had high hopes for this one, which is why I'm so shocked at how much I hated it. Had I not had so high expectations it's possible it had ended up with as much as three stars, but now ... no, it was awful, and reading it was a chore.
To be fair, only the first part deserves to be compared to that fakir book, because that part is just riddled with slurs. Yes, I get it, it's the evil characters that are using these slurs, but fuck, I get suspicious when white authors are comfortably using tons and tons of racist slurs just to give their "bad guys" an authentic voice. This book is meant to be about Nombeko, the title character, but instead we see most of the first part of the book from other characters POV, where they compete in being the most racist. Why? Why??? And why would you say it was fortune she was sexually assaulted so she could learn how to read? The. Fuck. I don't feel the narrative or any of the characters properly condemned these things, at which point you've got no excuse for it.
Nombeko could've been a great character, in any other book. Now she's just a copy of Allan Karlsson. Yeah, sure, he's an old white man and she's a young black woman, but apart from those differences ... exactly the same character. Both are surrounded by evil, powerful idiots and both are supersmart despite lack of education and change the course of history ... and more importantly - from what I remember of 100 Year-Old - their voices are identical. At one point Nombeko even gets excited about getting a beer despite having shown no fondness for alcohol at all during the rest of the book. Ooops?
Then again, there are only two possible voices for characters to have: evil and stupid, or solemn and good - that's it. Sometimes the stupid characters do something good, at which point they will slip into the "solemn" speech pattern for a line or two. These are easy to distinguish between: the smart and good characters you the formal you - "Ni", in Swedish" - while the idiots go for the informal - "Du". This became so fucking grating by the end of the book I almost threw it out the window (but it's a library book, I would never!). PEOPLE DON'T TALK LIKE THAT. Like, LITERALLY, "Du-reformen" was a process that took place in Sweden in the 60/70s (this book starts in the early 70s), that GOT RID OF THIS FORM OF SPEECH. You can read about it on Wikipedia, even. Despite this EVERY FUCKING CHARACTER use the formal you and refers to each other in third person while speaking, even the parts that took place in the 2000s. WHy do so much research on other parts of the story, and ignore this. WHY!?!?!??!?!
Lastly, while I'm not a fan of the King (I hate the monarchy, so the ending of the book didn't exactly make me like it more) or the former Prime Minister, but my gods, I feel for them having to be part of this book. It's not even cameos, because those can be fun, they have HUGE rolls, and it was just cringey reading the "witty banter" and all the sucking up to the King in the book. I almost couldn't keep reading.
I might recommend people to reread the first book rather than this one, but I'm not sure if that one will hold up for a reread ... I'm not going to try and find that out, because I don't want the memories of liking that ruined.