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We, The Drowned [Paperback]

Carsten Jensen , Charlotte Barslund
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 April 2011

In 1848 a motley crew of Danish sailors sets sail from the small island town of Marstal to fight the Germans. Not all of them return - and those who do will never be the same. Among them is the daredevil Laurids Madsen, who promptly escapes again into the anonymity of the high seas.

Spanning four generations, two world wars and a hundred years, We, The Drowned is an epic tale of adventure, ruthlessness and passion.

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We, The Drowned + Ghostwritten + The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet
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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099512963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099512967
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A magnificent addition to the canon of seafaring writing, a brilliant new reworking of the ancient theme...the pages glow with wonderfully imagined pictures... The language is all you could hope for in a sea novel: sinewy and simple, often surprisingly beautiful" (Vanora Bennett The Times)

"Carsten Jensen is unquestionably one of the most exciting authors writing in Scandinavia today. I always look forward hugely to his books. He is, in my opinion, an utterly unique story-teller" (Henning Mankell)

"An epic tale" (Independent)

"A novel of immense authority and ambition and beauty, by a master storyteller at the height of his powers. This is a book to sail into, to explore, to get lost in, but it is also a book that brings the reader, dazzled by wonders, home to the heart from which great stories come. Meet Carsten Jensen halfway and you're spellbound" (Joseph O'Connor)

"Impressive... one of the more engrossing literary voyages of recent years... rich, powerful and rewarding" (Financial Times)

Book Description

A magnificent epic of war, the sea, and the men and women caught in its powerful grasp.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A salty epic that may become a modern classic 9 Jun 2010
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is truly an epic tale, covering nearly a century from 1848, when Laurids Madsen and other men of the small Danish Baltic town of Marstal go to war to fight the Germans, up to the end of the second world war. The main focus is on Laudris' son Albert Madsen, whose sea-faring adventures include shipwrecking and cannibal attacks as he searches for his lost father and in so doing realises more about his own self. On his return he establishes himself as a sea captain and ship owner, and in old age, befriends the second main character, Knud Erik Friis, a small boy who grows up to become a sailor himself against his mother's wishes. It is through his eyes that we see the Second World War, as he becomes a man and, along with other Marstal natives, fights against the Nazis.

We follow Albert through nearly his entire life, and watch Knud grow up. For most of the book there is the almost ghost like narration of an unseen chorus, the "we" of the title that just adds to the novel's captivating tone. The other main voice of the author is the middle part of this huge book told in the first person by Albert himself as he quests to find his father. This is just as well-written.

There's a strong supporting cast as well including Knud's childhood friend Anton, the Terror of Marstal, Klara, Knud's slightly scary mother, Herman the Seagull Killer, and Albert's captain Jack Lewis. And then of course, there's the sea with it's promise of riches and adventure and ever-present threat of death ....

The book is an epic in every sense. It's sprawling, far reaching and encompassing a variety of kinds of stories. It's an adventure story, a romance, a coming-of-age story, a war tale, a drama, and a comedy. But what stands out is the quality of the writing. And the final pages are sublime. It may be a monster in length, but it's never dull and gripping throughout. Surely a candidate for this year's literary prizes? I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book 26 May 2012
Until recently, my reading has been restricted to non-fiction during a research project and this book probably gained something in my estimation because of this. I bought it about a year ago and have been itching to read it as I found the subject matter appealing, which was confirmed when I read a few random passages prior to purchase. I was also attracted by the interesting cover design and blueing on the pages made it stand out in the historical fiction section of the book shop.

I had thought that I may have built it up too much in my mind due to this long wait but 'We, The Drowned' did not disappoint me. In fact, it exceeded my expectations and is a marvellous book. Jensen writes in a deceptively simplistic style that makes it a very easy read. Indeed, I was surprised that it was translated from Danish as the narrative flows so well in English and I think Charlotte Barslund and Emma Ryder (Jensen's translators) deserve a mention for their excellent work in this regard.

I found the subject matter utterly compelling with a selection of stories and different characters covering the period between 1848-1945. The first 200 pages were fantastic and, while it slowed a little after that, it rapidly regained pace when the character of Knud Erik became the main focus of the narrative.

The storyline covers an immense range of topics (including three major wars) but excels when it comes to examining the characters and motives of the main protagonists. The fact that I missed some characters (such as Laurids and Albert Madsen) as they fell by the wayside reveals what a good job the author has done in this regard. Jensen doesnt shy away from tales of violence, war, murder, loss and cruelty in this book and they exert a disturbingly magnetic appeal.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Joanna
I am a middle aged woman and I bought this book second hand as I was going on a week to Denmark and wanted something topical. The subject was not one I would ever have dreamt of picking up. I was dreading having to read it and put it off until I was in the plane to C'hagen with nothing else to read. I never read mariner stories and thought I had very little interest in them or in the sea. I avoid boats and waves at all costs. But this book is fabulous. I really can't recommend it highly enough. Beautifully written, gripping not just with sea adventures, but with an enormous scope....of human lives, motivations and morality. It will be a classic. I can't do it justice. Pick it up and read it. Every time I put it down I would bore my whole family with how it is the best book that I have ever read, and I read a lot!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sea Faring Epic 2 Jun 2010
An epic tale describing the lives and jouneys of sailors from the small but very important port of Marstall in Denmark. Not for the feint hearted, it proved to be a very hard life at sea for the young men who really had no other choice. Perhaps one of the best novels coming out of Denmark in the last 25 years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We, the drowned - excellent 18 Jan 2012
I can only concur with the previous reviews. I hadn't read anything by Jensen before but having read the reviews and one in a paper, I was intrigued. And what a read. Majestic in its sweep yet intimate and human to the core. Can I also commend the translator: not an easy book to translate. Look forward to reading more by Jensen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A century of sail 17 July 2010
By Exlibra
This was not at all the book I was expecting, but it ended up as a very readable novel relating the history of three generations of sailors from one town in Denmark, from the mid 1800s to the end of the Second World War. At the very beginning it seemed all fantasy or myth, and I felt the book might not be for me, but as I went on it emerged as the moving, funny and tragic tale of a series of wonderfully stoic people. Their adventures could have been far-fetched but somehow didn't feel that unlikely. In fact at the end, which was the point when I almost burst into tears, I wanted to know what would happen next. My grandfather was Danish and I know a little of the history of that nation and I feel that Mr Jensen had really done his homework on the people and town of Marstal. A great read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 100 years in the life of Marstel.
I was not too sure at first when I started reading about the life in the Danish port of Marstel, but I was soon gripped and I read the book over 3 mornings I was on holiday. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Fiona Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
This book is simply brilliant. Its a veritable smorgasbord of a read but I think its got a kind of Treasure Island/Slaughterhouse 5. Read more
Published 1 month ago by @MagnumPIG
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
An epic tale told by a simply superb storyteller. One of the best and most well written books I have read in a long time. As simple as that!
Published 5 months ago by Avid Reader (East Midlands)
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly enjoyable, well written tale
Amazing story telling. As someone not interested in sailing it is a testament to the great development of characters that I loved it so much.
Published 7 months ago by dreriks
5.0 out of 5 stars danes at sea
a credible, sweeping and very engaging story that brings you the world, from the suffocating cruelty of a danish classroom to the magnificence of a tropical storm. Read more
Published 8 months ago by bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Salty as a Centurions Shield!
I was in the Merchant Navy for 13 years and I'm very proud and honored to have had the opportunity. When someone that hasn't sailed asks me "why the fascination and love of the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Stephen King
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very very good
This book is incredibly good. Full of long diversions around the world, hundreds of characters, decade after decade and generation after generation. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Keffin
5.0 out of 5 stars A voyage in time and across the seas
I have to echo the positive reviews here to say that this is a truly magical book. Epic in scope, it spans four generations and crosses many seas. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Cromarty Forth Tyne
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!
Epic novel and a page turner. The descriptions are amazing but not for the faint of heart. If you want a good book this it it.
Published 14 months ago by Kristina
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic
Beautiful, touching, exciting and fascinating. Could not reccomend it enough to those who love the sea and are interested in human nature.
Published 15 months ago by Joseph Caston
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