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5.0 out of 5 stars
A seafaring adventure with the stature of a Classic, 23 April 2011
`We, the Drowned' is the third novel by acclaimed Danish literary critic Carsten Jensen. It's one of those perfect books that leave almost nothing to be desired. First of all, this is a plot-driven novel, a characteristic that easily propelled it to the top of the book charts in its native Denmark.
Having said this, forget about those thrashy bestellers that offer cheap thrills mediated through awful prose: `We, the Drowned' is exquisitely written (I'm sure part of the credit should go to the brilliant translation by Charlotte Barslund) and it brims with insight into human nature.
A great plot delivered through fine prose. We might throw in `ambition' as well and, boy, this novel surely isn't lacking in that departement either. If this was by an American author, I'd be temped to call it a great `American Novel', a fat book that uses the sweet bait of an engaing tale to give you an insightful history lesson. Well, the novel works in a similar way, only you'll be learning about the history of Denmark.
Set in Marstal, once a flourishing shipping town full of fleets and dockyards, the tale spans a century of Danish history, from 1844 to 1845. It is told through the eyes and the adventures of several of its inhabitants (most of whom are connected in some way). It basically starts by depicting the seafaring adventures (one of which involves the shrunken head of James Cook) of several sailors and then goes on to recount, among other things, the upbringing of local children, the cunning plan of a widow to eradicate Marstal's seafaring vocation, a con man's clash with the Stock Market, the decline of sailing in favour of steamers and both World Wars.
Marstal is either where most of the characters are from or where they end up but this is a seafaring novel and, as such, you'll get to travel around quite a bit, from Greenland to Australia, from England to some godforsaken island, from Portugal to the African coasts.
We are talking about close to 700 pages yet the author ensures that this will be a hell of a joyride for the whole lenght of it.
Could I possibly pay a higher compliment?