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The Shadow Girls Paperback – 5 Sep 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009945548X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099455486
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Mankell writes with both a social conscience and great humour…it is both passionate and entertaining, and a strong indication that the Swedes are not as lugubrious as their crime fiction makes them out to be" (Sarah Crompton Daily Telegraph)

"Three girls escaping horror and hardship to make new lives in Sweden become the inspiration for troubled poet Jesper. But Mankell is too clever and cunning an author to go down any predictable path. Inspirational" (Henry Sutton Daily Mirror)

"This quirky offering sets out to tackle the weighty topics of immigration and how refugees affect Swedish society" (Doug Johnston Independent on Sunday)

"Mankell is giving a voice to those who do not possess one. Some may feel that there are two kinds of novel here, which remain obstinately heterogeneous. But such is Mankell’s skill that we surrender to whatever mode the book settles into – and it might be argued that the comic sugaring of the pill in The Shadow Girls makes the hidden agenda all the more potent" (Barry Forshaw Independent)

"As we are drawn into the shadow world of immigrant life in Sweden, Mankell’s blend of comedy and moving drama provides a voice for those who lose theirs on their journey from oppression to imagined freedom; freedom which is often transient and blighted with prejudice and racism" (Irish Examiner)

Book Description

The inspirational tale of a writer who finds himself caught up in the extraordinary stories of three young immigrant girls in Sweden by the 'Swedish John le Carre', Henning Mankell

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This non-crime fiction novel was first published in 2001,but only
now released in English.
It starts with the story of 'Tea-Bag',a young African female who
escapes from a refugee camp in Spain,making her way to Sweden
after a chance meeting with a Swedish journalist .When in Gothenburg,
she becomes friends with Leyla,who came to Sweden,with her family,
from Iraq,and Tanya,a Russian who escaped from a brothel in Latvia.
We read of the harrowing stories of these three women ,and it is hard
not to be moved.
Jesper Humlin is a poet,who is having problems with all the important
relationships in his life,his girlfriend, his mother,and his publisher.
After coming across Tea-Bag,and her friends,he thinks her can use their
experiences for the benefit of his writing.
Mankell's prose is ,as usual, easy and fluent,and the stories of the three
women deeply affecting.There is also much wit in the book,particularly
in the author's descriptions of Humlin's relationships.Yet,overall a
weakness of plot gives the impression of a novel written in a hurry.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Henning Mankell's fiction usually has a social conscience, so I expected something special after reading the blurb. In this surprisingly short book there is great basic material for exploring the parallel world of the immigrant community - many similarities exist between Sweden and Britain in this regard - yet the plots are left undeveloped. Meanwhile the European characters are scarcely believable caricatures. This is of course not Wallander, yet it fails as a social commentary, and it's not a great read, disappointingly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As ever Mankel is very sympathetic to women, especially those who are, in any way, brutalised. It's an interesting fiction rather than a gripping one. I've read several of Mankell's works that are not in the Kurt Wallander series. Whilst I can see the author's frustration at being widely known only as a writer of detective fiction, I have to say that the Wallander novels are a far better read than any of the others that I have read. The same goes for this. Although I was sympathetic to the three main characters they did not catch my imagination in the way that the characters in the detective fiction did. It just seems that some writers work is far better in one genre than in another. Even Conan Doyle is hardly remembered (except by aficionados) outside of the detective fiction genre and he certainly felt the frustration of not being considered a 'serious writer'. Perhaps that is partly due to the problems of translation although I would have thought the linguistic problems were similar. We do tend to understand more about the genre than we do about Swedish culture in 20th/21st century and perhaps that plays a part. Overall I enjoyed the book without being gripped by it (as I was with much of the Wallander canon). The plot works and the lack of resolution struck me as realistic - I do not think life has neat resolutions for illegal immigrants nor for victims in most cases, yet I feel this lacked the psychological depth of the crime fiction.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I generally like Henning Mankell a great deal but this book is a real disappointment. Told through the eyes of Jesper Humlin, poet suffering from 'comic' arrested development, we explore the lives/experiences/oppression of three young refugee women who arrive in Sweden and throughout the course of the book discover that 'freedom' remains elusive and for many women never really materialises at all. Humlin is a flawed character but I think we are supposed to overlook his weakness' as we discover that he is a man bullied and harrassed as those important in his life; mother, lover, agent, broker all gang up and try to organise his life to their own ends. These machinations are presented to us through a number of comic scenes which are supposed to shape our understanding and perhaps increase the affection for Humlin. The trouble for me was that a ninety odd year old 'sex-line' operator, a woman determined to beat the biological clock and breed and a banker who plays fast and loose with your money are all rather one dimensional and cheap literary devices. Throw into the mix the refugee who has acid thrown into her face, the trafficked prostitute and the african woman burdened by 'the monkey on her back' and I reach the end of my tolerance. The story of asylum seekers and refugees and the poor treatment they receive in the western 'developed' world is an incredibly powerful one - sadly The Shadow Girls fails them and I do hope that Henning Mankell who will no doubt make money off the back of these women does the decent thing and donates the profit to one of those NGO's trying to make a difference.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been a great fan of Henning Mankell ever since I was given one of his books by a friend we met on holiday. I would normally remain glued to his books and want to continue reading to the end, but this one has not grabbed me as it is a totally different type of story to his usual crime writing. I plan to finish it one day, but I have had it for a long time now and I am not drawn back to it.
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By EH on 20 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a choice for my face to face book group. When I started I thought it looked good, some lovely use of language. Then (for me) it took a turn for the worse. I couldn't figure out why the author thought anyone would be interested in such drivel. It reads like some kind of weird male fantasy. The weird main character is surrounded by equally weird characters, his octogenarian sex line worker mother, his scary girlfriend, his agent, his accountant etc. Then there were the shadow girls, I just found them unbelievable, lying, stealing etc etc and wanting to be on television. The friend who ran the boxing club seemed to be the most normal character in the whole book.
I read the whole book - other members of the book didn't even manage that - and it romped along but I would never recommend it to anyone.
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