We, the Drowned
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We, the Drowned

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,739 ratings  ·  466 reviews

Carsten Jensen’s debut novel has taken the world by storm. Already hailed in Europe as an instant classic, We, the Drowned is the story of the port town of Marstal, whose inhabitants have sailed the world’s oceans aboard freight ships for centuries. Spanning over a hundred years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War, and from the barren rocks

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ebook, 560 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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Becky
What do you say about a book that, after you finished it, you sat staring at a wall for fifteen minutes while tears flowed down your cheeks? It’s miraculous. I don’t feel that that’s enough, this review isn’t enough. I loved this book, I cannot do it justice. Still, it’s a good challenge to force yourself to examine what made you love a book, and so I’ve written the below.

The book is the ocean.
It’s about a fight with God. The book covers roughly 200 years of history, and the sea is the only cons...more
Matt
Like any self-respecting Minnesotan, I grew up loving the water. During our three warm months, I would fish, swim, and water ski. During our nine cold months, I would ice fish, drunk-swim, and ice-water-ski. But I don’t need to interact with the water. I enjoy it just as much – if not more – on a passive basis. Just plop me down on a beach with a book and a beer, and I’ve found my heaven. Water, you see, invites one to contemplate; it soothes the soul; it stirs the imagination. (Also, so does be...more
Felice
I wish I could remember where it was that I first heard of We,The Drowned by Carsten Jansen. I can't help thinking that where ever it was must have recommendations for other books and since Drowned is so very, very good I would like to know all the other books they liked. It had to be somewhere on the internet of course and it was made the book sound so intriguing that I wrote down the title. I wanted to keep a record of it so that when it became available I could get it. Availability was an iss...more
Jan-Maat
It was a big book. I read it. Now I don't know what to make of it.

It was a big baggy monster. Its language oddly stiff and awkward. It was a tell don't show book. And I'm not sure why so many supposedly hard-boiled people were so shocked at the sight of Captain Cook's shrunken head either.

At one point the book reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude and I thought that Jensen wanted to write a Danish version of that, but with a shipyard financial scandal instead of a fruit plantation. Howeve...more
Fiona
It’s been a year full of Meh so far and it took a long time coming, but I have finally, finally read a book that I absolutely loved. I’ve just finished it and I’m left breathless, barely able to contemplate that it’s over.

I picked this book up because of its pretty blue cover that attracted me straight away. Perhaps it was fate that lead me to this book as I hadn’t heard of the title or author before. I had a certain ‘feeling’ the moment I picked it up and a little part of me knew. So often litt...more
Nancy
We, the Drowned, is a magnificent book. It spans a century, from 1845 to 1945, and tells the stories of four generations of sailors and their families from the small Danish village of Marstal. Located at the tip of the island of Aero, Marstal during this time was one of the largest and wealthiest ports in the Baltic Sea, second only to the port at Copenhagen. Still, life in the village of Marstal is like life in most small towns, full of gossip, old alliances, and even older feuds. At the same t...more
Tony Taylor
Whew... 688 pages is a lot of reading! This book was more like an odyssey than a novel based on a fair share of historical fact as well as legend. "We, the Drowned," written by Carsten Jensen, a Dane, was first published in Europe in 2006 where it became an instant classic. In 2010 it was translated from Danish into English and has now become a best seller in America.

This is a story about the people of a small seafaring town in Denmark, Marstal, where for generations the men of Marstal had beco...more
Rosana
We, The Drowned could be divided into a trilogy, as the story spams over 100 years – from the middle of the 19th century until the end of WWII – and we follow characters from the port town of Marstal, Denmark, we are presented with the stories of Laurids Madsen, his son Albert Madsen, and then Albert’s protégé Knud Erik and his mother Klara Friis.

The great achievement of this book is how the individual stories both reflect and engendered the bigger story of the community of Marstal, and in some...more
Lisa
This epic novel by Danish author Carsten Jensen tells the story of the Danish seafaring town of Marstal over the course of one hundred years. Through the eyes of its many inhabitants comes a tale of adventure, passion, brutality, war, morality and social and technological advancement, all of which takes place between the years 1848 and 1945.

This is an incredibly well written book. Jensen's rich prose really brings the town of Marstal and its inhabitants to life, so much so that you can really fe...more
Jane
The first few sentences certainly made me curious to read on and am I glad I did!
"Many years ago there lived a man called Laurids Madsen, who went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots. He didn't soar as high as the tip of the mast on a full-rigged ship; in fact he got no further than the main....Laurids Madsen should have been dead. But death didn't want him, and he came back down a changed man."

No, no fantasy in this book. This is the saga of a small coastal village in Denmar...more
Sara
Even though this book is divided into four parts, it really felt like three books in one. The first bit was about Laurids Madsen, ‘the man who took a trip to heaven and saw Saint Peter’s bare ass’ during the First Schleswig War in 1848. His son, Albert, then crisscrosses the globe looking for him after Laurids has gone missing for several years but has failed to turn up on any of the missing ships registers. The first part had a fun feeling to it: shrunken heads, shooting cannibals with stolen p...more
Rebecca Foster
I spent five days utterly submerged in this magnificent Danish seafaring epic. From the first line onwards, it is an enthralling combination of history and legend: “Many years ago there lived a man called Laurids Madsen, who went up to heaven and came down again thanks to his boots.”

Jensen traces the history of Marstal, a small island off the coast of Denmark, from war with the Germans in the 1850s through to the aftermath of World War II. Over the decades readers meet four generations of father...more
Cait
My library finally got this book in. This is how it begins:

"Many years ago there lived a man called Laurids Madsen, who went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots.
He didn't soar as high as the tip of the mast on a full-rigged ship; in fact, he got no farther than the main. Once up there, he stood outside the pearly gates and saw Saint Peter - though the guardian of the gateway to the Hereafter merely flashed his bare ass at him.
Laurids Madsen should have been dead. But death di
...more
Myriam
Full review here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geLlI...

A beautiful novel about the sea and living at sea and with the sea.
Unlike anything I've read before. Beautifully written even though I read the English translation. The style was fluid yet beautiful.
The "we" perspective gave it an unusual and interesting angle.
The characters, well-developed and unique, were all interesting in their own right.
A majestic achievement, in my opinion.
Mark McKenna
ATTN: Thar be spoilers here, matey.

"We, the Drowned" is a big book. Winner of the "Danske Banks Litteraturpris" and called in a reader poll, "The best book in Denmark in the past 25 years," it was written by journalist Carsten Jensen and expertly translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund, with Liz Jensen.


"We, the Drowned" tells the history of a Danish seaport, Marstal, over a hundred year period: from 1845 -- and a war between Denmark and Germany -- to 1945, and World War II. The wars are...more
Stephanie Spines
Video review here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zetl9h...

This book really grew on me and I have a lot of thoughts about it. Here are some initial ones.

- I started to grow incredibly attached to the characters and found myself engrosed in their adventures, whether at sea or on land.
-So many people say that this book sags in the middle which is true but I think that this kind of lends itself to feeling like Albert does - landlocked and wishing for the sea.
-A couple of incredibly vivid and memo...more
Tatiana
Immersive, engaging, and masterfully crafted. We, the Drowned centres on the town of Marstal in Denmark, and the citizens therein, and how the town changes as the Age of Sail gives way to a more modern navy. And although that sentence alone summarises the book, it does a disservice: We, the Drowned is intricate and beautiful, epic in its breadth and yet so very focused that the reader never forgets where the heart of the novel lies.

There are three main characters the novel focuses on throughout...more
Val
The story covers nearly 100 years, from 1848 to 1945, and parts take place in seaports all over the world, but this is essentially a story of the building of modern Denmark, told through the seafarers of one small town. I would call them modern Vikings, but much of this book is still in the age of sail, so it does not seem that modern, it is more of a tradition of seamanship through many generations, each adapting to the ships, sea battles and trading voyages of their time.
The sailors spend quit...more
Miklos
If there was a way to divide this book into two parts with one portion interlaced with history and suspense, and the other portion more irrelevant and tedious, I would have had an easier time reading it. Unfortunately, as it's usually not possible to divide such a book so evenly, I really felt myself struggling through We, the Drowned. A historical fiction about a Danish town over the span of 50 years carried enough interest for me to want to see how the book ended and I'm certainly glad I did,...more
Kendra
Wow! This book takes my breath away!

I gave We, the Drowned four stars but would actually rate it at 4.5. Although I loved this book and I am sure that portions will stay with me forever, I couldn’t rate it at a five because there were moments when the story got bogged down and sputtered. But it always picked up again and there were many times when I would wait impatiently all day to pick it up and dive in again.

Be forewarned, this is a hefty book...at 688 pages. But do not let that scare you aw...more
Lisal
I loved this book. I was impressed with the translation, which managed to convey to poetry of Jensen's style. The language was very beautiful. It's a psychologically insightful novel, which perfectly captures and describes in words many aspects of human thinking and emotional experience.

'Every sailor knows this bitter feeling: the coast is near, but you know you'll never reach it. Is there anything more heartbreaking than drowning in sight of land? Is there a single one of us who hasn't at leas...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
“We, The Drowned” by Carsten Jensen is a spellbinding, award winning (Danske Banks Litteraturpris) fictional book which spans 100 years in the lives of the inhabitants of the small Danish coastal town Marstal. Jensen’s debut novel is already hailed as an instant classic and rightfully so.

Laurids Madsen goes off to fight the Germans along with other men of the town of Marstal in 1848. Laurids ends up on a boat which explodes and sends him up to the heavens, only to land in safely in his heavy boo...more
Kristin
I think that I liked this book. It was very unlike anything I've read before. Basically, it follows the sea-lives of Laurids Madsen (very briefly), his son Albert Madsen, and Albert's sort of adopted son Knud Erik Friis, from 1848 (First Schleswig War) to 1945 (end of WWII). This was a novel about the sea turning boys into men and the cruelty of being inescapably wedded to the sea. These men were both witnesses to and participants in some horrible things, from being beaten at school and murderin...more
Book Reader
We, The Drowned begins in 1848 when a crew of Danish sailors sets sail from the town of Marstal to fight the Germans (as a part of the First Schleswig War). Among them is Laurids Madsen, who after falling to earth with a bump (literally) promptly escapes his hometown into the anonymity of the high seas. As soon as he is old enough, his son Albert sets off in search of his missing father. Plagued by premonitions of bloodshed, he returns to a town increasingly run by women – among them a widow int...more
David Ball
Very much enjoyed this book. It's long, but it was worth the effort, not because it was particularly thought-provoking or artfully written, but because it was pretty damn entertaining. It's hard to go wrong when you conjure up a rogues gallery characters and sail them back and forth across the high seas for 100 years. But this isn't simply a book of adventure, to his credit Jensen very much sets the book up as a conflict between the men of Marstal who are almost biologically drawn to the sea eac...more
Bjorn
Call us Ishmael.

It takes almost 100 pages until I'm struck by this strange, recurring "we." After all, it's not as if the narrator takes up a lot of room in Carsten Jensen's 700-page novel; for the most part, We, The Drowned is narrated in the same way as many other novels with no clear protagonist, some sort of omnicient storyteller who never gets personal, never says "I" or reveals his or her name. It's just that the reader is occasionally reminded that this story, the history of the little Da...more
Kathleen Luschek
I started We, The Drowned, by Carsten Jensen, almost a year ago, then put it down for a long while. Recently, I picked it back up again, and flew through the entire thing. This is a lengthy (almost 700 pages) tome about a Danish sailing town that spans several generations. It begins in 1848 and ends on the last day of World War II, in 1945, and, so, lends itself a rather Gabriel Garcia Marquez-type feeling. There is even a bit of magical realism thrown in as well.

Despite telling the tale of roug...more
Teresa
I'd actually give this book a rating somewhere between two and three stars. Sometimes I found myself enjoying the book and other times I wanted to stop reading and say enough! I thought the book could have been shorter and been better for it. I like the idea of the book, but I think the author wrote in too many stories of bullying and animal cruelty. Another thing I didn't like was the changing narrator. Out of nowhere the book would change into first person, then go back. There was not a consis...more
Rachelfm
Wow. This is one of my favorite books so far this year. The prose was masterful, the characters complex and the premise trenchant. An absolute joy to read; every paragraph contained a universe of observation.

I loved the obvious devotion the author had to his hometown and its history and the daring required to depict these characters and their motivations, shortcomings and idiosyncrasies in such unsparing detail. I loved the arc of history bending around this town as her fleet circled the globe.

I...more
Tasha
I am rating this 3 stars although for about half the read I would gladly give it 3.5 stars, I might even consider some parts 4 stars. However, overall, I have to say it had it's ups and downs. Some parts were really engaging and fun to read while other parts just seemed to drag on. The writing was good and it had such a cool, unique feel to it. I think the many characters were just too much until the end when they all came together, which was very cool. The many characters made the story feel re...more
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Carsten Jensen was born 1952. He first made his name as a columnist and literary critic for the Copenhagen daily Politiken, and has written novels, essays and travel books.

Jensen was awarded the Golden Laurels for "I Have Seen the World Begin" and the Danske Banks Litteraturpris, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award, for "We, the Drowned."

More about Carsten Jensen...
I Have Seen the World Begin: Travels through China, Cambodia, and Vietnam Jeg har hørt et stjerneskud Sista resan Ud År To & Tre

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“Life had taught him about something far more complicated than justice. Its name was balance.” 9 likes
“You died in the end, but you fought first.” 7 likes
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