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We, The Drowned Paperback – 7 Apr 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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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: 12.9 x 4.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of life in Marstal, a Danish seafaring town, from 1848 to 1945, told through the stories of four people, three seafarers and one widow of a seafarer, who undergo the hardships of this life - wars including the two world wars, bullying first mates who can and do cause the deaths of those they're in charge of if they don't like them, bullying schoolteachers, and the ongoing bereavements suffered by women left behind in the town when the men have gone to sea. Then there are the intrinsic dangers of seafaring, notably on the Newfoundland route - very dangerous and the kind of life left to sailing ships when only ports like this haven't dredged and become suitable for diesel vessels. The story is told by a sort of Greek chorus consisting of the drowned of the town - this sound affected but actually it works really we'll...

The male characters are vividly brought to life and so is something of the life of the town - the town breakwater symbolises for one of the four heroes the kind of collective spirit that has enabled Marstal to grow and succeed. The plot is episodic in the nature of things, but the episodes are all enjoyable and inventive - you can never tell what will happen next and you want to find out. And no episode outstays its welcome. Indeed I was sad to reach the end of this book.

I found it a little less persuasive in its portrayal of the women and the anti-seafaring strategy of Kara Friis who tries hard to put an end to the business of seafaring in the town through a strategy of benign neglect of the opportunities for modernisation. (There are surely and obviously better strategies, like introducing alternative industry or opportunities to the town and it seems just unpersuasive that this wouldn't occur to her….)

Overall, however, I enjoyed this a great deal and would recommend it strongly to others.
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