I like this book, or at least, I found it interesting and found it hard to put to put down until I had finished the last page. Was I entertained by it? No, I don't think I was. Was it compelling? Absolutely. I liked it, I didn't love it. Having said that, I can recall the entire book which is more than I can say for many, many books I have read over the years.
Picked up on a whim, and one of the most surprising and engaging novels I've read in years. A new favourite, likely to be re-read repeatedly. Can't recommend enough - if the first page doesn't hook you instantly, I'd be astonished.
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.
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!!
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. Yet there is also a great deal of humour concerned and this combination makes his work a fascinating and exciting read.
This is an incredible book that covers a wide range of subject matter in epic fashion. At 693 pages, some readers might find it's size intimidating but the text is easily good enough to sustain the reader's interest throughout. Indeed, I read it avidly and my only disappointment is that it wasn't longer.
Jensen deserves the excellent reviews he has received and this may well become a classic as some reviewers have already commented. This is an exceptional historical novel and deserves to do very well indeed.