Uncategorized

Review: Often I Am Happy: A Novel by Jens Christian Grøndahl

51No0KeGq5L._SY346_My Interest

Obviously, my interest was related to the Bibliophilic Excursions subscription box. Of the three books, this one interested me the least. It sounded painful.

The Story

 

“There are times when I cannot hold his absence, and the feeling is a physical one…it is not a metaphor.”

“His body next to me in bed, the sound of his steps, the familiar timbre of his voice in the familiar rooms. Without him, they’re just somewhere.”

“…I didn’t change the sheets for several weeks. I slept in them until I no longer felt his smell. That is one thing I would have liked to talk to you about, [his] smell. How can you know someone so well without having words to describe how they smell. His smell is a fact in my remembrance, and it stays there, undescribed. It was, and is no longer but as a speechless recollection.”

Anna’s husband has just died. The story is what she tells her dead best friend as she comes to terms with her loss. Through Anna’s self-therapy of telling her late friend about her loss, she reveals her life and its secrets.

“It has dawned on me that human beings were never meant to reconcile their longing with reason, not at the expense of longing. As if I could love him in a lesser way just because he’s dead.”

“He had really believed that love and repetition could turn anyone into the right one.”

As she goes over her memories, the emotions sometimes still so raw even many years later, we come to know Anna and come to understand Denmark as a place of more than Tivoli gardens,  more than a 6 foot tall Queen, more than open- faced sandwiches, and even more than bikes with child-carrying buckets on the front. We come to see the manners and mores of daily life, of national secrets and shames.

Her observations on the suburbanites are fascinating and biting. She prefers the city, and following her husband’s death she returns to the city neighborhood of her youth.

“{She] has to go to the bakery in their Range Rover, just to make sure that people in their neighborhood know that she has one.”

“Apparently, noting is more purifying for people’s self-esteem than to place themselves at the very edge of someone else’s grief and show that they are not at all dizzy.”

“I cannot comprehend that the rich are unable to free themselves from their wealth.”

Her other vulnerabilities, not just those related to her husband’s death, come to the fore as well.

“I’d never known the prototypical estrogenic fermentation of motherhood….”

“You must pick the more suitable pain….”

“I always disliked answering the phone without knowing who it was. It frightens me a little, I don’t know why, as if someone wants to hurt me….cell phones….Not right now, is what I think when I see the name on the display, and the guilt is offset by my relief at evading the communicativeness of my surroundings.”

 

My Thoughts

Was I ever wrong! This was a captivating story, told exactly the right way. There were a few wonky phrases that must not translate perfectly into English, but that’s a minor detail. This was a fresh perspective to me and I devoured it. My Commonplace book will soon have pages of quotes from this very slim, but amazing, book.

My Verdict

4 Stars

map-of-denmark

Jens Christian Grøndahl

Read more about the author here.

6 thoughts on “Review: Often I Am Happy: A Novel by Jens Christian Grøndahl

I enjoy reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s