My Lockdown Books: Thirty

Between Two Seas was Marie-Louise Jensen’s first book and it’s exceptionally good.  I had some reservations about the believability of it after my first reading.  But then I did some research and discovered that what I’d thought were credulity-stretching coincidences were actually grounded in fact.

After her mother’s death, Marianne sets sail from Grimsby for Denmark in search of her unknown father.  The year is 1885 and the journey is fraught with danger and difficulty.  Most of the story is set in Skagen on the tip of Jutland and that’s where the title comes from.  In the late nineteenth century there was an artist’s colony there and Marie-Louise Jensen uses some of these artist’s as significant players in her book: Peder Kroyer, Anna Ancher and Michael Ancher amongst others.

I went to Skagen on the strength of this book and found that Marie-Louise Jensen had captured it perfectly.  The setting is very important to the novel but it was one of the things that troubled me on my first reading.  I felt that everything was made slightly too easy for Marianne but the presence of the artists and the newly-opened railway to the town actually make the plot completely plausible  (I am still envious of the speed at which Marianne learns Danish though!)

I’ve gone on to read all of Marie-Louise’s books and enjoyed them but this remains my favourite.


Between Two Seas

The last book I read was Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen.  The author is half English/half Danish and the book is set in the two countries at the end of the nineteenth century.  The heroine is Marianne, the illegitimate daughter of Esther.  At the start of the novel they are living in Grimsby but the action really begins after Esther’s death when Marianne sets sail for Denmark in search of her unknown father.

In my opinion, the book’s strength is in its description.  I’ve not been to Grimsby or to anywhere (except Copenhagen airport!) in Denmark so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the description but it painted a picture in my head.  I’m predisposed to envisage the sea but Marie-Louise Jensen certainly created a clear setting for me in the north Danish fishing village of Skagen.

The problem I have with the book is its lack of depth.  Everything just seemed a bit too easy.  Marianne leaves Grimsby with limited money, speaking no Danish and not knowing where Skagen is but somehow everything falls into place and she arrives with little difficulty.  Fortuitously, as she nears her destination, she meets a local artist who shares her ability to speak French.  I agree that none of this is impossible but it’s too convenient and too quick.  I am also very envious of the ease with which she seems to master Danish.  I’ve been learning Norwegian, a very similar language, for a year and I’m still finding it pretty hard going in spite of a number of visits to Norway.

Even though I think the book is too slight, I enjoyed reading it.  Marianne is an engaging heroine, if rather undeveloped, and some of the Danish characters are very well handled.  I read my library’s copy of the book.  Will I buy a copy to add to my personal collection?  Almost certainly, yes.