Ocean Eyes

In this age of constant access to information (not to mention marketing), I'll never want for entertainment options. There are more movies, shows, games, and books on my radar than I'll ever have the chance to get to. It's kind of depressing, actually. But no matter how many properties catch my eye, I'm always going to miss some that I would have wound up enjoying. This is where it comes in handy to have friends and family that are equally invested in pinning down quality entertainment. Not all recommendations pan out, but the lion's share do, so I always perk up and take notice when someone whose taste I trust (or are at least interested in) start talking something up.

So, I went to the library and picked up a copy of Carsten Jensen's 2006 novel We, the Drowned, based solely on my friend Kevin's Facebook status mentioning it. I didn't know anything about the story. I didn't know it was a Danish book translated into English in 2010. I certainly didn't know it was 678 pages long. I doubt it ever would have caught my notice without an outside push, but once I started reading it, I was riveted. We, the Drowned is an epic tale about Danish sailors from the small town of Marstal. While it spans the globe and a hundred years of history, it still manages to tell small, intimate, and often heartbreaking tales of hope and cruelty.

We often romanticize the lives of sailors, but this book certainly takes care of any lingering fantasies of the freedom and adventure that a life at sea entailed. From a protracted war, to revenge against a hated schoolteacher, to the precarious position of women both on the ships and on the coasts, this book doesn't sugar-coat how brutal life can be. But buried underneath the horrors of human nature are stories of bravery and love, too.

Though it's a thick book with a lot of weighty stories, it was never a chore to read. It made fictionalized people from faraway places and times seem more real than a lot of novels set in contemporary times do. I've always loved the ocean, and although this book depicts the lives of those who made their livings by risking life and limb to cross it with unflinching grimness, it made me pine for the sound and smell of the waves. I think a really good miniseries could be based on this book, but in the meantime, Jensen's novel sparks the imagination just as well.

We, the Drowned: A-


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