Rating: 5 stars
What an incredible book. Horrifying and hopeful in equal measure. It is a fiction, but it is born out of fact. Jensen has researched the history of Danish shipping town Marstal and woven a beautiful tale of all that is good and bad in humanity. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it at first. The opening chapter seemed flippant. However, once more characters were introduced and Jensen’s almost Conradian understanding of humanity took hold, I was completely gripped. It is a tale spanning 100 years of a town’s history, and a story of how people deal with their moments of ugliness through fellowship.
As well as the excitement of the characters’ adventures at sea, there is also a deep understanding of what it is to be human. The good and the bad in people is described unflinchingly. The characters deal with their weaknesses and inadequacies through fellowship. As I was reading, I kept thinking about Joseph Conrad’s writing, and I was pleased to see Conrad acknowledged by Jensen, who had drawn on The Shadow Line for detail about what it was like to be an inexperienced sea captain at the end of the 19th century. It prompted me to read The Shadow Line straight after.