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The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (£2.99)
On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle. Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.
The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto. Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plain despair. But Nombeko takes a different path. She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the position of chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world’s most secret projects. Here is where the tale merges with then diverges from reality. South Africa developed six nuclear missiles in the 1980s, then voluntarily dismantled them in 1994.
This is the story of the seventh missile, the one that was never supposed to have existed. Nombeko Mayeki knows too much about it, and now she’s on the run from both the South African justice system and the most terrifying secret service in the world. The fate of the planet now lies in Nombeko’s hands. Jonasson introduces us to a cast of eccentrics: a nerve-damaged American Vietnam deserter, twin brothers who are officially only one person, three careless Chinese girls, an angry young woman, a potato-growing baroness, the Swedish king and the prime minister. Quirky and utterly unique, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a charming and humorous account of one young woman’s unlikely adventure.
The Quarry by Iain Banks (£2.99)
Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer.
Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death.
Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care.
But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (£2.99)
As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples’ already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe’s life.
An intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all its own, Telegraph Avenue is the great American novel we’ve been waiting for. Generous, imaginative, funny, moving, thrilling, humane, and triumphant.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (£2.99)
In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor.
Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race – and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.
Restoration by Rose Tremain (£2.99)
When a twist of fate delivers an ambitious young medical student to the court of King Charles II, he is suddenly thrust into a vibrant world of luxury and opulence. Blessed with a quick wit and sparkling charm, Robert Merivel rises quickly, soon finding favour with the King, and privileged with a position as ‘paper groom’ to the youngest of the King’s mistresses. But by falling in love with her, Merivel transgresses the one rule that will cast him out from his new-found paradise.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.