The Shadow Girls – Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell is a favourite author of mine and Sweden’s most talented author; to me he is brilliant!  I thoroughly enjoyed The Shadow Girls although the subject matter is something I would normally avoid; it would give me horrible nightmares.  Mankell writes with humour while telling the tragedy of human trafficking and the problems of illegal immigration in Sweden.  Mankell’s superb skill weaves an exciting story around the narration of the true stories of the three young women whose real names are changed in the novel; Tea-bag, Tanya and Leyla. The author develops delightful fictional eccentric characters and the dialogue is crisp and witty between the poet Jesper Humlin; his mother Marta Humlin; Jesper’s girlfriend Andrea, (who is always threatening him to write her own book exposing him and his exploits); Jesper’s publisher Lundin who rows his way around his office (marking his way on a map of the Baltic Sea) for exercise and good health while puffing away on cigarettes.

When an author dives straight into the story and grabs me from the first page I am sold and Mankell does just that keeping sentence structure concise and settings descriptive.  In the first chapter the reader is introduced to Tea-bag who is a survivor from the human smugglers carrying their human cargo from Africa by ship.  The ship flounders off the shores of Spain and Tea-bag who wanted freedom and security becomes one of the many held in a refugee camp in Southern Spain.  Mankell develops each of the characters deftly from their first introduction into the story. This is a story every reader will be the richer for reading:-)

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