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4.5 out of 5 stars
53
We, The Drowned
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 January 2015
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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on 18 March 2013
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. The first story starts out in the 18th century and each subsequent character and story follows on so that the reader is taken on a journey through their lives, through many seafaring voyages and, in some cases, loves found and lost. At times heartbreaking, poignant and funny it is most of all, people with admirable characters as well as dubious ones.
The translators have also done an amazing job of making the English version just as rich as one can imagine the original Danish version is. It's a gem of a book and the writer should be commended on his storytelling ability.
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on 21 January 2015
I loved this book, genuinely loved it. It is full of the ocean, of seafarers tales, of mystery, humanity and inhumanity.
The characters are vividly brought to life and their stories written with a real feel for their lives and motives.
It takes you from Denmark to the heart of the Pacific and back again and to much more.
It is the story of the town and inhabitants of Marstal, a shipping port in Denmark. At times stark and brutal, at others, warm and humane, shot through with wit and wisdom. This is story telling on a grand scale.
It is a big book, but never outstays it's welcome. Highly recommended.
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on 13 September 2016
Exceptionally well written. Beautiful descriptions and amazing stories within stories. Charming, funny, inspiring, insightful and thought provoking. I loved it. These days, it's so rare to find a book of this calibre.

If I had to find fault, it really is an epic read!
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on 6 December 2015
I went in a little skeptical to read this book. I largely bought it on a whim in a book store based on the cover and struggled to get past the first few pages but once I was in I was gripped. The story arch is beautiful and the themes within the book are so beautifully and carefully unfolded throughout.

I would consider this book my favourite book. It is a wonderful, life affirming read in which there are passages that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I could not recommend enough.
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on 8 February 2018
The book has a rather gruesome start. I was ready to give in after reading just the first 50 pages. I decided to battle in and as the story unfolded it was a fascinating book. The characters came to life on the pages. You could feel their loss, pain and joy.
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on 3 March 2014
This book is simply brilliant. Its a veritable smorgasbord of a read but I think its got a kind of Treasure Island/Slaughterhouse 5. It slows down a bit in the middle for about 50 or so pages, around the bit with Albert and Klara's relationship, but apart from that is absolutely rollicking. Couldnt recommend highly enough. Surely a future classic
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on 15 February 2011
This is a beautiful and compelling novel, vividly recreating the grandeur and fragility of the sailor's life. It encompasses both the epic and the minisculely human, showing how worlds turn and fortunes are made and lost on an individual's whim. Beautifully written, and most importantly it never forgets to entertain! I'm so pleased that I discovered this book, it is a pure joy - I would never have come across it were it not for Kindle Post so hurray for new technology!
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on 29 March 2015
A very good read. Well written and it's format makes it perfect for just 'picking up and having a quiet read' when you can steal a bit of time to do so.
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on 10 May 2013
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 sea?" I no longer have to stumble around looking for an articulate answer all I have to do is say......"read this book".
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