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Review: The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake

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My Interest

This is my pretend add-on book to the box from the Bibliophilic Excursions box I’ve been reviewing this week. I chose it because it went with the Danish theme and was on my Kindle not being read. That it sounded similar to Beth O’Learys books made it even more appealing.

The Story

“She’d changed Louisa’s sheets, the new cream duvet cover smelling of lavender washing powder, the duck-feather pillows impossibly soft. She had unearthed the softest grey cashmere rug [throw] from the top of the wardrobe and had it draped over the duvet. She lit a candle by the side of the bed, pulled out a dog-eared novel from her rucksack and nestled down under the covers. Despite the heaven she’d created, however, she barely slept….” (p. 52)

“He looked at the table set with placemats and napkins, a glass filled with spidery branches and curling leaves in the middle, candles dotted around. ‘I don’t normally….'” (p. 116)

“He thought about her explanation of hygge and knew that was a philosophy for the way she lived her life. He had paid so many professionals to help him find a way of being happier with his lot. Had he missed something so simple?” (p. 154)

Clara Kristensen has arrived in Yulethorpe and lands at the only place in town that has a room to rent–the pub, of course. There she meets some of the locals including Louisa, owner of a nearly dead toy store and the one in the village best known for starting wild schemes and not finishing them. When Louisa makes good on her threat to just go to Spain and enjoy the sun she suddenly decides to let Clara house and toy store sit for her. Oh, and pet sit–she has a cat and an parrot who doesn’t filter.

In the background is a town that has slowly died. The joy is gone. Even the mothers of toddlers have to make do with the nursery school gate and a pilates class. No place to gather and talk and enjoy their expensive coffee drinks. Also looming is Louisa’s driven London high-flying son, Joe. Danish Clara has a cure for all of this: Hygge, the Danish form of cozy, heart-warming, love-draping atmosphere. She sets out to hygge the toy store, hygge and village, and maybe even hygge herself a guy!

My Thoughts

While there was one single line that stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the book–one line probably put there for that seemingly mandatory list of things that are required in a book today even if they do not fit the story. The conflict seemed unnecessary–again as though put in to meet some arbitrary requirement. I do not understand why conflict is so necessary.

This was a sweet, fun book. I loved the emphasis on homey details–the homemaking notions and atmosphere creation that are essential for that hygge-feeling. Ok, it’s not too believable that someone would dump their home and business on a stranger, but hey, who cares, right? It’s a story and a well-told one. And, what’s not to love about building a vibrant community where once there was only defeat? Or eating cake. Or draping soft blankets and lighting candles and enjoying being with good friends and doing fun, ordinary things?

My Verdict

3. 5 Candles

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake currently $2.99 for Kindle

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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

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Jens Christian Grøndahl

Read more about the author here.

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Review: Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking and a Bonus Review

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Trendy I’m not! Nothing like reviewing a book four years or so after it was a “thing.” Nonetheless, this little book packs a good punch in terms of the information presented. I listened to the audio, charmingly read by the author himself. I learned so much!

First, what I was already getting right. Cook good food at home and enjoy it with those you love. Done. Have cozy blankets. Got ’em, complete with warm purring cats. Enjoy a good book. No problem.

Second, what I could do better at or start doing. Get outside and not just to get into the car or get the mail. Enjoy the outdoors again. Hmmmm. That will take work. Get together with people more often. COVID is affecting this, but I miss my Sunday School class so much. We should be having our Christmas party in a week or so, as well as the ladies fun sock-swap party at church. Those are big events in my calendar, by the way. Candles. I’m not anti-candle and I am glad to hear that for hygge non-scented is the way to go. That helps a lot. And at 12 (2 of them) and 13-years old my cats are not likely to knock one over and burn the house down. I do have a fireplace, so I could buy some wood. I’d need a couch first though–I threw it out this year due to the state it was in.

My Conclusion? Everything about this resonated with me much more today than when it was at peak trendiness. It always takes me a while to like new things. My only regret was the recipes were a bit hard to follow on audio and they are apparently not on the author’s website, which I thought was odd. [See my review of Invisible Women. Probably the men at the Happiness Institute didn’t think of women listening to the book and wanting to cook the hygge-ish dinners, LOL.]

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This is one of the books in the Bibliophilic Excursions subscription box that I am reviewing this week.

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Who doesn’t want to be happier?

Here’s what Danes do that most Americans don’t–and the Danes are happier:

  • Bike to work
  • Eat dinner nightly at home with their family
  • Work a 30 hour week with weeks of vacation
  • Have affordable childcare
  • Have free medical care

Oh, and be sure to light candles!

Ok, I’m joking. The Danes just do not settle for anything but a decent work-life balance. Dinner at home with the family is almost sacred. Workaholic hours are scorned. People care about being with their families and friends instead of just their boss and coworkers.

Denmark and it’s near Scandinavian neighbors are often held up to Americans as models of what we should “have” in terms of bang for the buck from the government. I’m not sure how a nation as vast as hours, where nearly everything runs 24 hours a day anymore could do that. Aside from the obvious such as how do I bike to work if my job is 73 miles away? Or how do you work a 30-hour shift as a nurse and the surgery you are assisting on goes into emergency mode and you can’t leave. I’m sure Danes have jobs that DO require overtime, but I imagine it is paid and extra leave allotted.

I’ll leave the political part to the new Congress, but I liked the sound of all of this even if it is done with an American 40 hour week being held to 40 hours or vacation time that can be taken without snarky comments, side-eye looks, or a coworker trampling you when you are off. Those would be great for nearly everyone.

Have I mentioned how soothing it was to listen to the two little audiobooks? Light a candle, snuggle under a soft blanket, pour yourself a drink or brew some tea or coffee, open up some fine chocolate, and just listen and dream.

The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking