February 19, 2013

Book Review: The Shadow Girls


Henning Mankell takes a break from his popular Kurt Wallander series in The Shadow Girls, but crime fiction still makes its presence felt--because Jesper Humlin, a poet of mediocre success, is being badgered by everyone around him to write a crime novel, since it will be much more financially lucrative.

Plagued by his phone-sex operator mother, his nagging girlfriend, his unsympathetic editor and the broker who poorly invested his money, Humlin escapes from Stockholm to Gothenburg to do a poetry reading. There he meets three young girls--Leyla, Tanya and Tea-Bag--who will dramatically change his life. Each of these girls arrived in Sweden as refugees from other countries through very difficult circumstances; each has a haunting, horrifying tale to tell. Humlin finds himself wanting to share their stories and write a novel about the changing face of Sweden--if only he can manage to avoid writing the crime novel his editor has already started publicizing.

The Shadow Girls is a bit odd at first glance; Humlin's changing perception of the world and his bizarre arguments with everyone in his life are comical, in spite of the somber subject. But Mankell's masterful way with words, and the shocking things that Leyla, Tanya and Tea-Bag have had to endure, will keep the reader engrossed. The Shadow Girls offers a timely look at questions of immigration, faith and family that Sweden (and the rest of Europe) are currently facing.

This was one of those books that I wouldn't say I liked, per se, but somehow I couldn't put it down. Mankell is just a gifted writer, even if it's a subject matter to which I wouldn't normally gravitate.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend it to my grandma? Um, maybe. If your grandma happens to be a phone sex operator too. I originally reviewed this for Shelf Awareness. The image is an affiliate link.

Are you a Mankell fan?

Psst... the Love of Reading link-up is still open! Come read the posts already there, and feel free to add one of your own!