Jesper Humlin is a poet of middling acclaim who is saddled by his underwhelming book sales, an exasperated girlfriend, a demanding mother, and a rapidly fading tan. His boy-wonder stockbroker has squandered Humlin's investments, and his editor, who says he must write a crime novel to survive (to his dismay), begins to pitch and promote the nonexistent book. When Humlin goes to Gothenburg to give a reading, he finds himself thrust into an entirely different world, where names shift, stories overlap, and histories are both deeply secret and in profound need of retelling.Leyla from Iran, Tanya from Russia, and Tea-Bag, who is from Africa but claims to be from Kurdistan (because Kurds might receive preferential treatment as refugees)--these are the shadow girls who become Humlin's unlikely pupils in impromptu writing workshops. Though he had imagined their stories as fodder for his own book, soon their intertwining lives require him to play a much different role.Offering both surprising humor and heartbreaking moments,The Shadow Girlsis a triumph that will please longtime fans of Mankell as well as readers new to his work.
The darkly absurdist humor in bestselling Swedish novelist Mankell's novel comes from an original blend of cheerful satire, metafiction, and earnest social messaging. Jesper Humlin is a poet who is moderately successful professionally and mostly hapless personally. His girlfriend, Andrea, is pressuring him to have a baby, his editor has decided (and publically announced) that Humlin's next book will be a "crime thriller," and his elderly mother is running a phone sex service. Cleverly, everyone Humlin encounters, including his mother, stockbroker, and a writerly frenemy, has casually decided to write a crime novel, while Humlin, after a chance encounter with Nigerian refugee "Tea-Bag," resists his editor's demands in favor of exposing the plight of international refugees. Humlin then teaches writing to Tea-Bag; Leyla, an Iranian immigrant with a highly protective family; and Tanya, a silent Russian pickpocket. Hearing their stories ignites Humlin's passion to do something meaningful, but his lofty ideas don't align with his subjects, illuminating some prescient issues of the immigrant narrative. At turns absurdly amusing and genuinely touching, Mankell's latest novel (after The Troubled Man) will be a new twist for fans of his Kurt Wallander mysteries and an enjoyable outing for fans of more literary fare. Agent: Anneli Hoier, Leonhardt & Hoier. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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The New Press
October 15, 2012
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