on 25 July 2006
Being a native Dane living in Copenhagen, the year 2005 had me fed up with celebrations of the bicentenary of H.C. Andersen. You would think that an event like that would have you discover a few things about the man you didn't know, but sadly everyone was cycling through the same old stories over and over again. I therefore turned abroad to find literature on Andersen with a fresh angle. Luckily I discovered "Just as Well I'm Leaving". This is by no means your typical academic biography, and for a change the author isn't shy to deal with HCA's sexuality in an open and straightforward way. Mind you that this is an issue the danes always have been rather coy about.
This is by no means a scientific book, and it wouldn't be the first choice for the literary students. I would estimate that about a third of the book has absolutely nothing to do with HCA whatsoever, and throughout the book you do not at any point feel like you're being lectured on the life and time of HCA. In fact you find yourself cracking up with laughter every five minutes. This book is simply hilarious (maybe even over the top for the conservative reader) - and even though the jokes don't necessarily contribute much to conveying the substance, they make the book very entertaining and readable. I realize this sounds like the author didn't have much to offer on the subject, and therefore had to wrap everything in humor, but the amazing thing is that you're left with what feels like an exhaustive insight in exactly how and why HCA became what he did. Booth is like that teacher in school you loved for making lessons fun instead of consistently trying to cram hard facts into your head all day. I have grown up with the stories of HCA, but I never felt I knew him as well as after reading this.
So if you only plan on reading one book on HCA - and aren't studying fairy-tales at Oxford - read this.
on 23 September 2006
This book is first and foremost a really good read. Michael Booth has a very easy style, full of entertaining comments and anecdotes, which had been laughing out loud. You don't have to be a Hans Christian Andersen fan to enjoy this book - there is far more too it. If you have any knowledge of Denmark, you will love it even more!