I almost missed my train out of Yekaterinburg because I decided I was going to the bookstore, no matter how far away it was. It was pretty far, and Yekaterinburg is sliced in half by the Iset River, requiring me to walk further out of my way (in both directions!) to find a bridge that could get me from my hotel to the bookstore. When I finally arrived I asked, in broken Russian, “Books in English?” and the cashier shook her head no. I sighed and headed for the door, but then a customer yelled at me, in broken English, “Lady! Lady! Up!” So I went upstairs and found a small selection of English-language books, including Jonas Jonasson’s The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden.
Book in hand I ran back to my hotel and then jumped on a bus to the train station, arriving a mere twenty minutes early (I usually liked to get there thirty minutes early, but most normal people get there five minutes early) and headed for my seat in platzkart. This was the only time I traveled third-class in Russia: bunks are stacked three high in an open carriage with space for fifty-six travelers. There was no privacy and I was worried the passed-out drunk guy above me was going to pee himself (and thus me), but fortunately I had a good book to take my mind off things!
Anyways, back to the The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden. This book tells the story of an illiterate, but highly intelligent, girl from Soweto named Nombeko. It follows her through an early childhood in which she uses her cunning to her advantage, and through her later years as an immigrant in Sweden who finds herself caught up in a truly crazy plot. The story is humorous and heart-warming from start to finish, and I thought the translation into English was wonderful. I was smiling and laughing (to myself) the whole time I was reading, which I’m sure made the other travelers in my cabin think I was a crazy foreign girl! This would be a perfect read on the airplane (or the train!) and a great gift for any avid reader this holiday season.