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We, the Drowned

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,421 Ratings  ·  654 Reviews
It is an epic drama of adventure, courage, ruthlessness and passion by one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed storytellers.
In 1848 a motley crew of Danish sailors sets sail from the small island town of Marstal to fight the Germans. Not all of them return – and those who do will never be the same. Among them is the daredevil Laurids Madsen, who promptly escapes again into the
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published February 9th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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KC This is a pretty good summary: . A complete character list would be rather lengthy but know the following…moreThis is a pretty good summary: . A complete character list would be rather lengthy but know the following four.

Laurids Marsden
Knud Erik
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Best Scandinavian and Nordic Literature
28th out of 908 books — 949 voters
The Chess Machine by Robert LöhrWe, the Drowned by Carsten JensenThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil GaimanThe Other Side of Eve by Paul IkinWatching People Burn by Julian Darius
Beautiful Book Cover Design
2nd out of 385 books — 146 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
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
I know I absolutely loved this book, but I fear I will be unable to properly explain why.

It is all in the lines. Some are beautiful, and yet their beauty is not the main thing. It is that each line had me thinking. Something happens, a person does something and then a line expresses the dilemma a person now faces. This is what made the book for me. Life is complicated, people are complicated and I like books that show you this. I felt that over and over again, in every paragraph, I was drawn in
João Carlos

6 Estrelas Épicas

“Nós, OS AFOGADOS” primeiro livro do escritor dinamarquês Carsten Jepsen (n. 1962) narra a história de várias gerações da pequena cidade portuária de Marstal, situada na ilha de Ærø, na Dinamarca.
Uma épica aventura marítima que se inicia em 1848 e termina no final de Segunda Guerra Mundial em 1945.
A primeira personagem é o fascinante Laurids Madsen, um marinheiro aventureiro, - “esteve no Céu e voltou a descer por causa das suas botas. Não planou até ao topo do mastro de uma fra
Jul 06, 2010 Felice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 24, 2016 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of my new favorites ...more
Apr 27, 2016 Ray rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Jensen has written a saga that tells the story of a port in Denmark from the 19th century to the end of WW2. He gives us the ebb and flow of the fortunes of the port, its families and its markets (the whole world). He shows us how cruel and unforgiving the sea can be - for long periods the town is mainly populated by women and children as most of the men are away at sea. Many of the men do not come back.

Its pages are full of fantastic characters in dramatic circumstances - secrets and lies, murd
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
Jan 28, 2013 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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
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
Tess Roman
Mar 20, 2016 Tess Roman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is really good and I would recommend it
Alice Lippart
Apr 03, 2016 Alice Lippart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful piece of literature. The characters were amazing and the writing lovely. Some parts a bit slow, but other than that, amazing.
Tony Taylor
Aug 18, 2011 Tony Taylor rated it really liked it
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
Stephanie Spines
Jan 12, 2014 Stephanie Spines rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Video review here:

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
Jul 28, 2013 Rosana rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 06, 2013 Bjorn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: denmark
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
Jan 24, 2016 Nina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with stamina
I stumbled upon this book in the library of a little town I was staying in over the weekend. I can't resist multi-generational epics because I love books that make you feel like you just completed a long, long journey when you finish them and I can't resist books about the sea because when I was five, all I wanted to be was a pirate and I never really lost that. Therefore, I borrowed it with the intent of reading it over the weekend and returning it before I left town, but well, those plans neve ...more
Deeply depressing but wholly beautiful. And entirely fantastic. For the first time in quite awhile, this was a novel that drew me in and kept me focused to the point where I forgot where I was sitting. The characters are fantastic – they are at the same time intricately wrought while also being transitory. The story is both a historical fiction as well as a sprawling epic complete with mysticism and fate. The situations and plot are both believable but highly stylized as an oral history due to t ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 01, 2014 Myriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full review here :

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.
Peter Newman
Oct 29, 2015 Peter Newman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-things
This is an incredible book. It's epic in scope and reads unlike virtually anything else I've read, spanning several generations of the people of Marstal. It's fictional but follows real world events... Actually it's very hard to capture in a succinct way. Essentially it's brilliant, deep, and amazing in its scope. Also fascinating to read from a craft perspective as it does things I've not seen anywhere else. (Though this may reflect more on my reading!)
J.M. Hushour
Oct 30, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it
There is a lot to love here. Rightfully compared to Tolstoy, it could also be compared to Vollman, Pynchon or other epicists, for it is a long work, spanning a good century in the life of real-life Danish sailing town Marstal. Now, if you judge from the back cover blurbs you might expect quite a different story. But back cover blurbs, I'm convinced, are written by people who only read, say, the first fourth or fifth of a book, because although, sure, this starts out as a grand seafaring epic, a ...more
Dec 26, 2014 Jeane rated it really liked it
Shelves: denmark, england, germany
The title of this book might be very straightforward but only after several hundreds of pages, the light suddenly went in for me. Now that I have finished the book, I see the beauty of the title.
It had a slow start this book for different reasons. It describes a lot and a story just starts without bringing you into a pre-explanation. Who is telling the story also changes several times. All this does make it a bit slow to read. It was difficult for me to get in the story because it isn't a story
Ela Moreno
Jun 03, 2015 Ela Moreno rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It's taken me years to finally get around to reading this book and it has been a welcome surprise. I don't want to call this the epic, seafaring, Danish version of One Hundred Years of's kind of the Danish One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's big, epic and tells the story of the relationship the men of the town have with the sea, and where that leaves the women and children.

The individual stories of different characters come together in such an amazing fashion that by the end,
4.5 stars

We, the Drowned is an epic tale that spans the time from 1848 to the end of WWII predominately in Denmark and around Western Europe. The story chronicles the life and people of the Danish town Marstal. Marsdal is a maritime town through and through. Most of the men are sailors of one sort or another where they are at sea for most of their young to middle age years. The boys are naturally expected to grow up to be's a tradition. They eventually "retire" of sorts on shore. Ma
Mar 27, 2014 Miklos rated it it was ok
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
Mark McKenna
Mar 27, 2011 Mark McKenna rated it it was amazing
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
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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...

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“Life had taught him about something far more complicated than justice. Its name was balance.” 14 likes
“Two drowning people can't save each other. All they can do is drag each other down.” 14 likes
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