This is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long, long time. Finally we are treated to a nautical tale that is more than just picking weevils out of biscuits and other overly tedious aspects of sailing life that many books decide to force on us. Generally I think this comes from an author who had to research what life on a boat was like, and then says if I had to research it, I had better well talk about it.
We, the Drowned however, focuses on the story of the individuals. The novel spans the course of four generations of Marstal a small shipping town in Denmark, we are regaled with tales of war, cannibals, great journeys and a man who claims to have literally flashed his bum to St. Peter and the Pearly Gates. It is impossible to put the book in any one category, it ranges from comedy to romance to high drama, and then back again. We, the Drowned keeps its pacing remarkably well and while there were times I was forced to put it down, I regretted having to, and couldn’t wait until I could get back to reading.
One of the most interesting things about it, is the perspective of the novel. We, the Drowned is written in the voice of “we” the town. There is a great line from the book expressing this. “Everyone of us has a story, but it is not the one he tells himself. Its author has a thousand eyes, a thousand ears and five hundred pens that never stop scribbling.”
We, the Drowned
by Carsten Jensen
translated by Charlotte Barslund
published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt