Jane's Reviews > We, the Drowned

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
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really liked it
bookshelves: 4-stars, read-in-2015

It's worth noting, in the first place, how I found this book. A year or two ago, I was looking around my favourite bookshop, telling myself to buy something I wouldn't normally buy. We, the Drowned jumped out at me when I walked past it, and it's not hard to see why -- look at that cover! I bought it and, typically, it had been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust until about a month ago, when I finally decided to conquer it.

We, the Drowned is set in Marstal, a small town in Denmark with a centuries long history of seafaring. It spans about 100 years, from the middle of the nineteenth century to the end of World War II. It can be hard for the first few hundred pages to decipher what exactly the book is about, but it became clear to me that this was less the story of a few individuals in a small Danish town, and more the story of Denmark as a whole and the way it has been shaped by European history.

This book spends roughly half its time at sea and half its time in Marstal. When at sea, it's very much your typical seafaring adventure, and the tales of corrupt sailors, dangerous storms and incredible lands would be enough to excite anyone. Back home in Marstal, we see a lot of character development take place, and we also see the conflicts between tradition and modernity, and between the men who are desperate to sail and the women who are terrified to lose them.

Manhood is a central theme in We, the Drowned, and this is reflected very well in Jensen's writing style, which is dry and succinct, and translates incredibly well into English. This style is something really remarkable about the book, as it perfectly conveys the mentalities of the main characters. However, it does have some limitations: the female characters in the book can seem at times awkward and unrealistic, and their dialogue is often rather stilted. Compared to the heroes of the novel, Jensen seems to have difficulty making the women of the book likable or even particularly interesting.

On the whole, though, this is a very good book. At nearly 700 pages, it's an investment, but it is an enjoyable and rewarding novel that is held together by prose that is itself full of character. Definitely a great start to my year in terms of reading!
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Quotes Jane Liked

Carsten Jensen
“Two drowning people can't save each other. All they can do is drag each other down.”
Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned

Reading Progress

December 9, 2014 – Started Reading
December 9, 2014 – Shelved
December 9, 2014 –
page 30
December 10, 2014 –
page 60
December 11, 2014 –
page 90
December 12, 2014 –
page 120
December 13, 2014 –
page 150
December 14, 2014 –
page 180
December 15, 2014 –
page 210
December 16, 2014 –
page 240
December 17, 2014 –
page 270
December 18, 2014 –
page 300
December 22, 2014 –
page 330
December 23, 2014 –
page 360
December 29, 2014 –
page 390
December 30, 2014 –
page 420
January 1, 2015 –
page 450
January 2, 2015 –
page 480
January 3, 2015 –
page 510
January 4, 2015 –
page 540
January 5, 2015 –
page 570
January 6, 2015 –
page 600
January 7, 2015 –
page 630
January 8, 2015 –
page 660
January 10, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 11, 2015 – Shelved as: 4-stars
January 11, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015

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