I have had this book on my horizon for a bit. The Resident IT Consultant read the review in the Guardian and said ‘That sounds like an interesting book! I wonder if she is Danish?’ Marie-Louise Jensen does sound very Danish, and her book Between Two Seas is also very Danish, for a sort of English book. Marie-Louise is half Danish, and she speaks the language, so she gets the Danish phrases right. She is too young to have known Skagen in the 1880s; otherwise I’d say that she has probably got that right, too. But I’m too young to know.
Marianne is the 16-year-old daughter of a single mother in Grimsby, and all her life she has been an outcast because her mother wasn’t married. When she is orphaned she uses her last money – that she didn’t even know her mother had saved – to travel to Denmark to search for her father, because this was her dying mother’s wish.
Her father came from Skagen, the very tip of Jutland, and Marianne makes her way there. With no money left, she also has to stay there. She needs to find a job and somewhere to live. She learns Danish. And she finally makes friends, for the first time in her life.
The ‘father situation’ is an interesting one, and as is to be expected, things aren’t quite what Marianne or the reader may think.
I read this book on the train, and it had me crying before I’d reached Macclesfield (less than ten minutes, to you). Apart from the story about Marianne, this novel provides a portrait of the artist colony in Skagen. More than one famous artist appear, and it’s not just beautiful, but smelly, too. Poverty and privies.
And then there is the sea. Beautiful. And very dangerous. I have always wanted to go to Skagen, but haven’t managed it yet.