The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell – review

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  • What’s The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell about? During a talk on his work, poet Jesper Humlin is surprised to find a curious, somewhat aggressive group of Sweden’s immigrants in the audience. He soon gets to meet three women who live nomadic lives as illegal residents of Sweden’s urban underbelly and these girls want something from him… they want to know how to write, seeing it as a kind of passport to ‘real life’, where they can be TV celebrities. Jesper agrees to teach the girls and what proceeds is a picaresque tale of life on the margins of society as they appear and disappear from his life, leaving Jesper mystified. But in time they reveal details of the terrifying adventures that brought them to this place from Africa, Eastern Europe and Iran. As for the poet, he has disjointed relationships with his mother, girlfriend, publisher, friends – in fact, most people he comes into contact with. He seems passive, unable to confront any of them – but this chance encounter with the ‘shadow girls’ forces him to take a stand and he makes a decision to make public the horrific, often untold stories of life on the edge of society.

    goodtoknow says If you’re familiar with Henning Mankell’s chilling Nordic tales featuring the grim-faced detective Wallander, be prepared for a change. His new offering is a part thriller/part comic novel that reveals something of the harsh realities of illegal immigrant life. This is a surprise of a book, and the unhappy poet Jesper an unlikely hero, unwittingly caught up in the plot. It’s a story of intriguing revelations and bizarre characters, from his mother Marta whose best hour is midnight and leads a salacious, secret life, to silent, smiling Tea-Bag, who rowed and trekked most of her way from Africa to Sweden alone. Expect the unexpected and you may be amused by Jesper’s journey as well as enlightened, amazed and even appalled by the voyage these immigrants embarked upon in search of a better life.

    Rating: 7/10

    Publisher: Harvell Secker

    Publish date: Out now

    If you like this, you’ll like: The Road Home by Rose Tremain

    Buy it on Amazon now

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    Where to next?

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    The Red House by Mark Haddon – review

    See the new titles in goodtoknow’s 2013 Book Club