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Often I Am Happy

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  609 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
"Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -B.S. Ingemann

Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor neverth
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Twelve (first published September 20th 2016)
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Pouting Always
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ellinor is left alone after her husband passes away and begins to write to her old deceased friend Anna, her husband's former wife and her best friend. As an old women she tries to make sense of her life and come to peace with everything that has happened. This book has also been translated from the original Danish but wow it I doubt it lost anything in translation because all the writing felt poignant and powerful. I can understand why someone might not enjoy it but personally I thought that th ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare adult books that's realistically presented- honest and tenderly written. The humanity is delicate and tenacious. It's an intimate enduring gem!!!

I 'know' this story... 'really' know it first hand.
I have a question for the author?
"Did you my know my Uncle Buddy who married Ethelyn after his wife died? Do you remember the boys Simon and Charlie, too?
Etheyln and Janice were best fiends for thirty years. After Janice died Buddy asked Etheyn to marry him less than a year
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ilse by: Cheri
Shelves: 2017, reviewed
It has dawned on me that human beings were never meant to reconcile their longing with reason, not at the expense of longing.

Even if we welcome all our guests warmly and live a pretty decent life, most of us shouldn’t expect the gods granting us the wish and privilege requested for by Philemon and Baucis ’Since we have lived out harmonious years together, let the same hour take the two of us, so that I never have to see my wife’s grave, nor she have to bury me.’ (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book VIII:
Diane S ☔
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ellinor, at the age of seventy, finds herself alone. Her husband has died, the two boys she helped raise are now grown, with lives of their own. With a wish to unburden herself with the secrets and thoughts of her life, she talks to her best friend, a friend who lost her life long ago and who also, happens to be her husband's first wife.

This is a beautifully written book, not overly emotional, just the introspective thoughts of a woman who has lived a long life. Sometimes happily, sometimes not.
Angela M
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short, introspective, sometimes sad, but "often" "happy", this is another book that I've read in the last couple of years with the focus on a person in their later years coming to terms with themselves and reflecting on the life they have led. Ellinor talks to her friend Anna, who was her husband's first wife. The thing is - Anna is not alive. I didn't have a problem with this in the least . I talk to my mother all of the time. I'm not losing it and neither is Ellinor. In my case it just makes m ...more

When 70 year-old Ellinor’s husband Georg passes, she finds herself alone, lonely and reflecting on the years past, friends who are now gone. Children grown and moved away, not that she could share these thoughts with them. All those whom she could turn to when she had a story or a memory to share, questions needing answers, or simply needed comfort: Gone.

”Love was. Is it no longer? Yes it is, it does not die with the man, but for how long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms f
An old woman named Ellinor talks to her dead best friend about her life. That's the whole enchilada. Sounds exciting, huh? Well I just LOVED this book. I was sorry when it was over and I no longer had access to Ellinor's head.

It’s pretty funny that I ended up giving this book 5 enthusiastic stars, because when I started it I was sort of having a tantrum—I couldn’t figure out was going on in the story AT ALL, and the language seemed super stilted, cold, and clunky. I was not seeing any “whole enc
4.5 Stars.

Who is this author Jens Christian Grondahl? I like him....I like his writing and I like Ellinor!

70 years young, Ellinor is a good person, an extremely forgiving and tough soul who lets loose of all her secrets writing to her exceptionally beautiful, but long-dead friend Anna....who just happens to be the first wife of her beloved and recently departed Georg.

In OFTEN I AM HAPPY, memories of a disastrous ski trip....with her first husband Henning, Anna and Georg draw the reader in cove

Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, fiction, loved-it
This is a near perfect book. I am so in awe that I have been staring at the screen for a while trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words, preferably coherent ones. Sometimes there comes along a book that feels true in a way that is rarely achieved. It seems like Jens Christian Grøndahl boiled down life and refined it to fit it into this short 176 page long novel.

Recently widowed Ellinor addresses her late best friend (and her late husband's first wife) to talk about her feelings, her lif
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a unique and beautiful way to present a life, through the writing of a woman in her seventies to her long-deceased best friend and the first wife of the husband she has just lost.

The title of this book is deceptively simple, yet truly meaningful. Imagine someone introducing themselves to you with this sentence; what would you expect might follow these words. I hadn't really thought about it before I began reading but I have thought about it a lot since I finished. Ellinor is writing of her
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, arc
Ellinor is 70 and alone. Her husband has just died. Well, he was her second husband. And he was once married to her former best friend, Anna, who is also dead. And who, let's just be real, probably had an affair with Henning, Ellinor's first husband. In other words, things are complicated. Or they were. Before everyone died.

So now it is just Ellinor, and she has some things to say to her dead used-to-be best friend, her friend who she adored before it all went wrong. Often I Am Happy is Ellinor'
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it

Is it ever possible to know the secrets and burdens that another person carries – even if that person is a spouse or a best friend? This spare and elegant novel lays bare the innermost thoughts of its narrator, the recent widow Ellinor, a 70 year old, as she confides in her husband Georg’s first wife and her best friend, who is also deceased.

Slowly, deliberately and lyrically, Ellinor reveals milestones of her life: her courtship by her more outward-going first husband, the charmed friendship th
Betsy Robinson
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A woman talks to her dead friend, the first wife of her now-dead husband. A story unspools with the alacrity of thought processes—a thought in present time suddenly catapults the narrator and you into a past time. There is tension, like a pot of water on a low flame on the stove. It heats, maybe simmers a while, and then threatens to boil, but never quite does. And that's okay. I so admire the daring thought and time transitions, and to stay with them, I read slowly and enjoyed the simmer, trust ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We know at the start of this elegant short novel that Ellinor, recently widowed at 70, is writing a letter to her long-dead best friend. She knows that Anna is no longer sentient, but she understands that “Love was. Is it no longer? long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms…When does it become the memory of a feeling, no longer the feeling itself?” Ellinor comprehends that at her age, her relevance is diminishing, and by talking to Anna, the power of her words will solid ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it

This is a beautiful story told by Ellinor to Anna. Georg has just died after being married to Ellinor for over forty years. Anna was Georg's first wife and Ellinor's best friend. Georg, Anna, Ellinor's first husband all share a history. Ellinor writes to Anna and confides in her about her father and mother. She also tells Anna about her twin son's life. She confronts Anna and at the same time shares moments and memories. Details about Ellinor's entire l
Marilyn C.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
3.5 Stars
Terri Jacobson
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Ellinor en haar man Henning zijn goed bevriend met Anna en Georg. Maar alles verandert wanneer de twee stellen op skivakantie gaan en Anna en Henning omkomen in een lawine. Hun echtgenoten blijven alleen achter. In hun verdriet trekken Ellinor en Georg steeds meer naar elkaar toe. Pas wanneer Georg jaren later overlijdt en Ellinor helemaal alleen achterblijft, durft ze het verleden onder ogen te komen

In de roman richt Ellinor zich tot de dode Anna om haar verhaal te doen. Om over haar gevoelens
Hilde Vandecasteele
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top
Intens, intiem, ontroetend. Schitterend.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2017
For me it was never a question of forgiveness once you were gone. It doesn’t make sense to stand there forgiving or not forgiving a stone, be it limestone or granite. Your life, any life, is reduced to a handful of facts when it ends. It was. This and that happened, and we can make of it what we like. (p.4)

The attorney said something about undivided possession, and I thought about our bed at home, how unaccustomed I still was, at night, to the undivided stillness. The linen, the pillowcases, t
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Йенс Кристиан Грьондал е познат на българските читатели със заглавието Тишина през октомври.

Признавам си, че, когато си взех тази книга от един зимен панаир, бях страшно привлечен от заглавието, но и се боях от евентуално затъване в блудкава емоционална патетика, за която човек би могъл да се опасява на първа ръка. Когато обаче прочетох книгата за няколко дни, напълно потопен в атмосферата, която само датски писатели могат да оплетат, разбрах, че този човек ще го търся и ще го чета тепърва оттук
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 300-fictie, 001-ebook
Wat een juweeltje! Prachtig geschreven. Rauw over rouw. Mooie passages doe ik had moeten opschrijven omdat ze zo waar zijn....
Els Deveuster
Ik heb dit vlotlezend boekje graag gelezen. Omdat het mij volledig meenam krijgt het 4 sterren. De dood, vriendschap, huwelijk, ouderschap zijn de thema's. Meer ga ik niet verklappen.
Mary Lins
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complete
"Often I Am Happy" by Jens Christian Grondahl, is really a novelette that can be read in one spellbound sitting. Septuagenarian Ellinor, is writing to her now dead friend, Anna. It begins: "Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." Who could stop reading after such a tantalizing introduction? Not I!

I won't detail the plot because the joy in this novel is the gradual unfolding of how Ellinor and Anna each got where they are on either side of the grave. Grondahl translated t
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." So starts the -- sometimes melancholy, sometimes blistering -- epistle from 70 year-old Ellinor, to her best friend, Anna.

Ellinor and Henning, and Anna and Georg: two couples, best friends; they eat dinner together, they go on vacation together, until a crisis explodes, and both couples are devastated.

Ellinor's dissertation on marriage, tragedy, parenting, infidelity and aging, among other things, is starkly heartbreaking and unr
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deens-danish
Erg mooi geschreven. Een bijzondere eerste kennismaking. Het maakt me erg nieuwsgierig naar de andere boeken van Grøndahl.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
"We, who are no longer being loved, must chose between revenge and understanding, and I thought that, yes, of course the tow of you had to drift toward one another.”

This is a very short novel at 176 pages but it’s packed to the punch. It is literary fiction, full of self-reflection. Seventy year old Elinor’s second husband has passed away and we know he was married to another woman first, Anna. Elinor raised this woman’s children, as they were s
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Deyanne by: Elyse
This is a tender and compassionate little gem of a book truly dealing with loneliness, loss, friendship and in many aspects intimacy. It is not intimate in a physical sense, but rather I was allowed inside a person's deepest thoughts and feelings - regrets and joys. This is a gentle little book. There is not much action and to some it may seem strange that a seventy year old woman is confiding in her long- dead best friend. The strange part is that this woman was also her husband's first wife. ...more
Ivonne Rovira
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ivonne by: Hannah
In the ironically titled Often I Am Happy, the rarely happy Danish housewife Ellinor has recently lost her husband Georg. She begins writing to her long-dead best friend Anna, who also happened to be Georg’s first wife. What emerges are reminisces of a woman who is just now realizing — at age 70-something — how self-effacing and self-sacrificing her life has been. To say more would be to ruin this novel, which resembles The Golden Notebook more than The Dinner. Not a lot of action, but Often I A ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
A short and sweet book so a short and sweet review. Ellinor's husband has passed away. She reflects on her life by speaking to Anna, her best friend who passed many many years ago. Ellinor speaks of their "shared" husband, infidelity, childhood memories, her love of another and now her breaking away from family. In discussing the past and present Ellinor in a sense frees herself yet understands and accepts her life. A very inciteful read.. I did not cry! I received this ARC from Hatchett Book Gr ...more
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Jens Christian Grøndahl is one of the most celebrated and widely read authors in Europe today. He has written plays, essays, and eleven novels. The publication of Silence in October marks Grøndahl's U.S. debut. His novel Lucca was awarded the prestigious Golden Laurels Prize in 1999. He lives in Copenhagen.


Kvinden i midten - 1985
Syd for floden - 1986
Rejsens bevægelser - 1988
Det i
More about Jens Christian Grøndahl
“Am I being unfair? Is it only my self-hatred playing me a trick? Self-hatred is a gendered feeling: in a man it makes him a wimp; in a woman it's the natural order to feel defective.” 2 likes
“We who are no longer being loved must choose between revenge and understanding [...]” 2 likes
More quotes…