I LOVED this book! Loved it. I struggle to find non genre (lit fiction) fiction that is good. Much of it is broody, and depressing, and overly self-conscious. Most are trying to sell a message, and though they try to be subtle, I generally find it distasteful. We, the Drowned was fiction done right. I freely admit that by the end I was crying. Jensen’s writing style was interesting but at first I wasn’t sure if was going to be able to get into the book. He uses this interesting narrative device telling the story from the ‘we’ observer perspectives which was a bit odd for me at first because I couldn’t tell where he was going with it.
The story begins focused on Laurids Madsen and the boots he wore when he went to heaven and saw Saint Peter, only to return to earth. We then follow his son Albert (owner of those famous boots) as he grows and becomes a sailer, and then the owner of shipping line as well as a visionary man. The boots end up with Knud Erik Friis, a fatherless boy who defies his mother and also goes to sea. Along the path those boots and a portion of the story go to Anton Hay, the Terror of Marstal. The story is one of the sea, and of those who love and hate the sea. In a larger sense it is the story of the town Marstal, Denmark, and her inhabitants. The novel covers wars, rumors or wars, times of prosperity, and times of change. All the while Jensen manages to capture the readers attention and really describe what different conditions were on ships in times gone by. The evolution of sailing is also represented in a thoughtful way.
There are some difficult subjects covered in this book: war, murder, racial inequality, rape. Jensen handles these things, not sensationally as is the temptation in fiction, but in a thoughtful and very realistic way. Sometimes the prose was so beautiful that I had to read passages aloud to my husband who indulged me patiently. Sometimes Jensen’s words were so poetic and profound that I never wanted the book to end. I am now afraid to read anything else by him, because I loved this so much. I would recommend this to anyone who isn’t afraid of a large book, and those who might be interested in Denmark’s place within the world.