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We, the Drowned

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  7,917 ratings  ·  1,097 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, 678 pages
Published February 9th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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Popular Answered Questions
Jeremy Yes, you are. Magnificent.
Yes, you are. Magnificent.
KC This is a pretty good summary: . A complete character list would be rather lengthy but know the following fou…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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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  7,917 ratings  ·  1,097 reviews

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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, so here we go:

This 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 constant character,
Natalia Yaneva
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bulgarian review below/Ревюто на български е по-долу
If you stand on the deck of your life and look at the horizon, you will see them emerge. The spectres dwelling in the past and the drowned inhabiting the present. You will see how the surf is trying to cast them ashore on some marooned coast, but they are always there reminding you of themselves, and there’s no other way. Because they are us. We, the drowned.

Despite its volume, the novel has a lace structure and the text breathes lightly. T
Mar 05, 2011 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
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
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
(A revised version of this short review of my favorite work in translation appeared on the National Book Critics Circle blog in September 2018.)

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 De
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2018

WOW! This book here is one of the best examples of why I love reading so much. I've been through a slight reading slump for a few months (thanks, Javier Marias, I guess...) but the history of this amazing Marstal island in the Baltic sea and of its roving sailors proved to be the best medicine I needed.

Many years ago there lived a man called Laurids Madsen, who went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots.

The story of a common sailor, and of his set of heavy handmade boots, becom
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book draws you like a sea stream.

Luckily, it is not only about seafaring or the life of sea men. Jensen takes a deeper look into a world, build upon and gravitating entirely around the sea, or better The Sea. The book comprises of different smaller stories or episodes (I was having this particular feeling sometimes that I was watching a TV-series of more or less undefended episodes, which is, to my taste, not something by default bad).

The atmosphere of the histories is composed in a (sligh
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, read-2017
”The sea was ever-changing, and yet it left him with an impression of sameness. <…> The cloud above the frozen sea changed, but he was already familiar with them all. There was plenty for the eye to feast on, but nothing for the soul.”

I did it. Now I feel like We, the Drowned is the only fiction book I’ve read in my entire life or at least as if I’ve been stuck with it ever since I learnt how to read. However, despite the numerous occasions when I was moaning about how unimaginably long this
Jul 06, 2010 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
I love being surprised by books. I had heard wonderful things about this book, but I wasn't won over by the blurb. I mean, a book about sailors and boats, how interesting could that really be? Aye aye Captain, loading and unloading on docks, scurvy, maggoty sea biscuits, twenty seven ways of tying a rope. Come on, 700pp of that doesn't sound like riveting reading.

But I was wrong on two counts. While there is sailing and some life on boats, there is so much more going on with these characters. Th
May 06, 2013 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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
First person plural; but not in the ‘we.‘
I said that about Evan Dara's The Lost Scrapbook for some reason. This novel is in the "we" through and through. And it's a lovely "we", probably an awful lot like your "we". Except unless of course like most americans your community has been more or less taken out from under you and perhaps you never even knew it once existed. Another excellent community=we novel I enjoyed very much was Kanthapura. One gets the we by subterfuge I think rather often in
Oct 13, 2014 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
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of my new favorites ❤️
Alice Lippart
Mar 24, 2016 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.
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Today Marstal, tomorrow the world!

The small Danish town of Marstal on the island named Ærø in the Baltic Sea (maps included) and, of course, its people of several generations are the protagonists of this wonderfully composed epic adventure that spans almost one hundred years, from 1848 to the end of WW2, and pretty much all of the seven seas.

Ideal for landlubbers like me, who can barely tell a sternpost from a jibboom (or a bowsprit for that matter), not to mention the myriads of different sails
280617: this book greatly surprised me. i am not usually much of a reader of epics, i do not know Danish authors (5), i would not have read this but for certain efriends on goodreads who rated this so highly. as it is translation i might have missed some language-specific aspects of the work, but i do not know if that is much of the appeal...

so, translation is fine for me. structure of the book is very exact: covers major incidents in four major sections, read each in single sittings, so obvious
Jan 01, 2013 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
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wanda, Marialyce
Recommended to Laura by: BOTNS
This book tells the epic story of a four generation of sailors who lived in Marstal, a small town in Denmark.

The story covers a period of time from 1848 till the end of World War II, 1945.

And what about the plot? I won't say a word otherwise I'll spoil the whole thing. But once you start to read this book, you won't be able to stop even if it has 700-800 pages.

This book really deserves a 6 stars rating, believe me!
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
Jun 20, 2013 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
We, the Drowned is a compilation of the stories of people, places, and ships, that covers a period of almost a century and tells the story of a few thousand people. Starting off with the war between Denmark and Germany in 1846 and the story of Laurids Madsen, it curves forward in time through World Wars I and II and Madsen’s son Albert, his acquaintance with a young boy (grown man at the end of the book) Knud Erik, and the thousands of people living in Marstal – an important port and seafaring t ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sailing is a lifestyle. In a small town in Denmark, Marstal, you are born into this lifestyle, for better or worse. Over a span of 100 years, we are taken on a journey of sailor's life. Three generations of Marstallers show us the changes in the maritime world and the realities of war. Told from a perspective of a community, it reveals the impact of modern-day progress, warfare, and personal ambitions. Nobody counts the dead in Marstal. There's rarely a grave to visit as drowning is the most com ...more
Stephanie Spines
Oct 28, 2012 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
Dec 15, 2015 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
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Spanning several generations, various world events and endless nautical miles, this tome of a book revolves around the inhabitants of the coastal town of Marstal, in Southern Denmark, from the mid-1800s to World War II. Wide in scope and rich with detail, We, the Drowned kept me entertained for a solid week.

I was up for seafaring adventures, in fact eager for them as I was vacationing by the ocean when I read this, and the novel provided plenty of these. I was perhaps less aware of how much room
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
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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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."

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