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Often I Am Happy

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"Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -B.S. Ingemann Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor neverth "Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -B.S. Ingemann Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor nevertheless finds it meaningful to divulge long-held secrets and burdens of her past: her mother's heartbreaking pride; Ellinor's courtship with her first husband; their seemingly charmed friendship with Anna and Georg; the disastrous ski trip that shattered the two couples' lives.


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"Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -B.S. Ingemann Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor neverth "Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -B.S. Ingemann Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor nevertheless finds it meaningful to divulge long-held secrets and burdens of her past: her mother's heartbreaking pride; Ellinor's courtship with her first husband; their seemingly charmed friendship with Anna and Georg; the disastrous ski trip that shattered the two couples' lives.

30 review for Often I Am Happy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    It has dawned on me that human beings were never meant to reconcile their longing with reason, not at the expense of longing. Even if we welcome all our guests warmly and live a pretty decent life, most of us shouldn’t expect the gods granting us the wish and privilege requested for by Philemon and Baucis 'Since we have lived out harmonious years together, let the same hour take the two of us, so that I never have to see my wife’s grave, nor she have to bury me.' (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book VIII: It has dawned on me that human beings were never meant to reconcile their longing with reason, not at the expense of longing. Even if we welcome all our guests warmly and live a pretty decent life, most of us shouldn’t expect the gods granting us the wish and privilege requested for by Philemon and Baucis 'Since we have lived out harmonious years together, let the same hour take the two of us, so that I never have to see my wife’s grave, nor she have to bury me.' (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book VIII:706-710) Although we all know stories about elderly couples having been together for decades, dying within a few days of each other, many who have the luck to share one’s life enduringly with someone loved, will face living through separation by death, or will leave the beloved one in mourning. The presence of another human being close to you might even sharpen your awareness of mortality. Hodie mihi, cras tibi. Today it's me, tomorrow it will be you. However this might be a morbid thought, that makes it no lesser true. Someone has to be first. Experts can put it very dryly.‘Widowhood is a normative experience in later life’. For bringing such experiences to life, we are blessed we can to turn to poetry and literature. Is it still possible to feel something which can hesitantly be designated as ‘happiness’ when one has to go through that ‘normative experience’ twice in one’s life? The story of Ellinor’s life, 70 and having buried a spouse twice, illustrates it is, nor minimising the impact of the experience, nor sentimentalising about it. Apparently nothing 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. Nobody tells me that life must go on. There is room for wailing, all I have to do is let go. I felt it at the funeral, the too-long-and-significant looks or, to the contrary, a feigned normalcy as if to show me they know very well that no words are adequate anyway. I’m not being fair of course, what are people supposed to do with a bereaved person? They do their best but the trouble is that when it comes to professions of empathy, I’d rather not, whereas I can be sure to be all by myself in the dead of the night, whenever I could use a hug. Ellinor returns to the bare essence of life while addressing in thought her friend Anna, the deceased first wife of Ellinor’s second husband, Georg, coming to terms with his recent death and her own past, her family history, her life before and after meeting Anna and Georg. Readjusting to her new role in the life of her stepsons, she detaches herself from relatives and alienating, burdening expectations, selling the family home to move to a small apartment in the city neighbourhood she grew up in, regaining her freedom of speech now it is no longer necessary to keep up appearances or to keep the peace at all costs. In her vulnerability, she finds comfort in her solitude, realising that even in a relationship one cannot or does not share all one’s thoughts and emotions, like she never spoke with Georg about the shame she felt for her foggy descent, or the sorrow about her own childlessness. I thought about our bed at home, how unaccustomed I still was, at night, to the undivided stillness. The linen, the pillowcases, the finely woven cotton. It was time to change. For a few endless, lonely seconds it felt again as if I were swelling inside, to the point of bursting, compact and breathless, and I had to clutch the armrest. It comes when I least expect it. It would be glossing over to say that I am mourning when it is mourning that fills me up, that shapeless lump, growing unrestrainedly. It drives me out of myself, making me gasp, and nobody will ever understand before they themselves lose someone dear to them and feel the pressure. The shapeless, rising mass of grief. No, it is true that one is no longer oneself. In sparse and simple, thoughtful prose Jens Christian Grøndahl makes grief and loss tangible through his lucid observations, pinpointing significant details like the speechless recollection of the smell of a beloved, or the awkwardness and shyness of people faced with the grief of another, at the same time creating an intimate and hopeful tale by illustrating how at decisive moments in life, one can leave behind some of the ballast resulting from the sacrifices one made for love - living alienated from one’s roots, in a sleepy suburb, living literally in the house and shoes of a dear friend who’s place one takes – and choose to cherish life again. The lines of the song Tit Er Jeg Glad by the Danish novelist and poet Bernhard Severin Ingemann (from 1812, put to music by Carl Nielsen in 1917) which open the novel for me perfectly capture the ripping ambiguity of the emotions living through grief, the tightrope walking, illustrating what a tattered word like happiness can mean in this context, how feelings meld within heavy heart, often tinged with an equivocal rim of the opposite feeling. Often I am happy and yet I want to cry For no heart fully shares my joy. Often I am sorrowful yet have to laugh That no one shall my fearful tear behold. Now just jump on that bicycle and get that tub of white wall paint Ilse, oust the darkness by translucency, space and light. Yes, it feels pleasurable to do things yourself, dear Ellinor, thank you for inspiring me. Having read this novel in Dutch first, my honest thanks go to Netgalley, Twelve and the author for the ARC, which enabled me to insert some quotes in English. Watercolours by Jonas Pettersson.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    Ellinor is left alone after her husband passes away and begins to write to her old deceased friend Anna, her husband's former wife and her best friend. As an old women she tries to make sense of her life and come to peace with everything that has happened. This book has also been translated from the original Danish but wow it I doubt it lost anything in translation because all the writing felt poignant and powerful. I can understand why someone might not enjoy it but personally I thought that th Ellinor is left alone after her husband passes away and begins to write to her old deceased friend Anna, her husband's former wife and her best friend. As an old women she tries to make sense of her life and come to peace with everything that has happened. This book has also been translated from the original Danish but wow it I doubt it lost anything in translation because all the writing felt poignant and powerful. I can understand why someone might not enjoy it but personally I thought that the book was pretty close to perfect. The length was ideal, it wasn't so long that I lost my interest and it made for an enjoyable quick read. A lot of the themes in the book are also things that relate to all of us like our relationship to others and the loneliness we feel as well as the idea of learning to live with the unknown and being happy with life at the end of the day. I really enjoyed the way uncertainty was expressed through out the book because it's one of the harder things to make peace with about life, the fact that most things feel senseless or unfinished. I very much enjoyed this one and I totally want to read more of Jens Christian Grondahl's work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This is one of those rare adult books that's realistically presented- honest and tenderly written. The humanity is delicate and tenacious. It's an intimate enduring gem!!! I 'know' this story... 'really' know it first hand. I have a question for the author? "Did you my know my Uncle Buddy who married Ethelyn after his wife died? Do you remember the boys Simon and Charlie, too? Etheyln and Janice were best fiends for thirty years. After Janice died Buddy asked Etheyn to marry him less than a year This is one of those rare adult books that's realistically presented- honest and tenderly written. The humanity is delicate and tenacious. It's an intimate enduring gem!!! I 'know' this story... 'really' know it first hand. I have a question for the author? "Did you my know my Uncle Buddy who married Ethelyn after his wife died? Do you remember the boys Simon and Charlie, too? Etheyln and Janice were best fiends for thirty years. After Janice died Buddy asked Etheyn to marry him less than a year after her death. The boys were angry - rebellious... especially Simon. They couldn't stand the idea of another woman taking over their mother's role. Jen Christian Grondahl wrote a very special book. Perhaps it's not a book for everyone..but for those it is.......this story explores the strengths and weaknesses of human character ---Being an introspective novel, the themes, ( loneliness, sadness happiness, and sometimes all these emotions all at once), are subtle. This is one of those books that is now part of my DNA. It will resonate with me forever! I think it's simply a brilliant small novel. BIG THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES!!! "Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; For no heart fully shares my joy." --B.S. Ingemann

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    This novel is not long in pages, but the writing is very dense and compact. There is little conversation as the entire novel is a letter written by Ellinor to her best friend Anna. Anna is dead as is Henning and they have been for 40 years. However, it is the loss of Georg that brings forth the grief of Ellinor’s previous losses and which she writes about to make sense of her past. For the two couples were nearly inseparable: Ellinor and Henning and Anna and Georg. They felt as though they had kn This novel is not long in pages, but the writing is very dense and compact. There is little conversation as the entire novel is a letter written by Ellinor to her best friend Anna. Anna is dead as is Henning and they have been for 40 years. However, it is the loss of Georg that brings forth the grief of Ellinor’s previous losses and which she writes about to make sense of her past. For the two couples were nearly inseparable: Ellinor and Henning and Anna and Georg. They felt as though they had known each other always. Then came the deaths of Henning and Anna, and the eventual re-marriage of Ellinor and Georg. Ellinor stepped into Anna’s place, loving and caring for Anna and Georg’s twin boys from the time they were 5 or 6 years old. The twin boys are now a decade older than Ellinor was when she became their step-mother. This fascinating letter of Ellinor’s tells of her own past as well. She relates to Anna aspects of her life that she never told anyone else. There are many other secrets and undisclosed events and feelings that Ellinor shares with Anna. She also shares her philosophies and what her deepest thoughts and feelings are regarding her own life as well as the life she shared with Anna and Henning – and later with Georg. I enjoyed reading Ellinor’s story and the style she used to tell it. She moves from one story to another, connected not by chronological time, but by similarities or differences in events. There is an authenticity in her writing, an open and honest desire for Anna to understand her, and in the process, she finds further understanding for herself. I am also very impressed that the author translated the work himself. Although the events in the book take place in Denmark, it could be anywhere in the world, for the human nature aspects of the story are largely universal. My impression of this book is one of admiration, respect, and deep empathy for the characters. As always with an excellent novel, I learned a lot for myself in the process of ‘listening’ to Ellinor’s expressed thoughts and feelings. I loved it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Ellinor, at the age of seventy, finds herself alone. Her husband has died, the two boys she helped raise are now grown, with lives of their own. With a wish to unburden herself with the secrets and thoughts of her life, she talks to her best friend, a friend who lost her life long ago and who also, happens to be her husband's first wife. This is a beautifully written book, not overly emotional, just the introspective thoughts of a woman who has lived a long life. Sometimes happily, sometimes not. Ellinor, at the age of seventy, finds herself alone. Her husband has died, the two boys she helped raise are now grown, with lives of their own. With a wish to unburden herself with the secrets and thoughts of her life, she talks to her best friend, a friend who lost her life long ago and who also, happens to be her husband's first wife. This is a beautifully written book, not overly emotional, just the introspective thoughts of a woman who has lived a long life. Sometimes happily, sometimes not. Her youth, her first husband, his affair and death and how she came to love the man who became her second husband. I wish I could understand why some of these types of books work for me, while others don't. I think in this case it was the writing and the unusual circumstances in which this woman found herself. In many ways, by the end of the book, she has come full circle, trying to see herself moving forward. I also loved the gentle and elegant way this story and Ellinor were treated by the author. Makes me think of what I would say about my life, what parts I would find worthy of relating, when and if I get to Ellinor's age, how I would feel about my life looking back. A very good and worthy book, about a likable woman.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    Short, introspective, sometimes sad, but "often" "happy", this is another book that I've read in the last couple of years with the focus on a person in their later years coming to terms with themselves and reflecting on the life they have led. Ellinor talks to her friend Anna, who was her husband's first wife. The thing is - Anna is not alive. I didn't have a problem with this in the least . I talk to my mother all of the time. I'm not losing it and neither is Ellinor. In my case it just makes m Short, introspective, sometimes sad, but "often" "happy", this is another book that I've read in the last couple of years with the focus on a person in their later years coming to terms with themselves and reflecting on the life they have led. Ellinor talks to her friend Anna, who was her husband's first wife. The thing is - Anna is not alive. I didn't have a problem with this in the least . I talk to my mother all of the time. I'm not losing it and neither is Ellinor. In my case it just makes me feel better and feel that she is nearby. Ellinor needed someone to tell her story to and to reconcile some things with Anna who used to be her best friend. She's grieving the loss of her husband, their husband actually. In rehashing to Anna their history, we come to know what happened to Anna and how Ellinor came to marry Georg. She tells of how she met her first husband, about her mother and the father she never knew. It becomes somewhat of a here's my life story telling Anna about the parts before they knew each other and after Anna was gone. The memories of their friendship of the past bring understanding and forgiveness. Perhaps the telling of it, even though to someone who's dead is the catharsis she needed to move forward from her grief, to figure out where she is. What a place to be - at peace with an understanding of your life , at a place where she can express her sadness, her earlier self, tell her stepsons exactly what she thinks . I loved her thoughts on parents and loving each other and the vision she has of her mother and father. A quiet, beautifully written story. I received an advanced copy of this book and Twelve Books through NetGalley.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gaurav

    The solitude of our existence, may not be contained in great walls of nothingness. The lesser mortals we are Spend our lives in the grand illusion, That we may avoid Absurdness of life. The plenitude of distractions We have invented Are nothing but Means to avoid (perhaps futile though) the great absurdity of life. Is it worth the pain The life Are all those distractions Mean nothing at all. The grand question The only possession Kept entertained us Since inception. If everything started from singularity And perha The solitude of our existence, may not be contained in great walls of nothingness. The lesser mortals we are Spend our lives in the grand illusion, That we may avoid Absurdness of life. The plenitude of distractions We have invented Are nothing but Means to avoid (perhaps futile though) the great absurdity of life. Is it worth the pain The life Are all those distractions Mean nothing at all. The grand question The only possession Kept entertained us Since inception. If everything started from singularity And perhaps may again become singularity What is the point of this evasion. Perhaps we are condemned to do so Some say by some supreme being But if it is so Then the Supreme being is also condemned To condemn us. So I say, Condemned, we are By the very nature of life. We may know or not at all But this is what we would keep doing till the eternal fall. Death is one of the most profound certainties of life, yet we have always been bamboozled by its enigma- enigma of its very nature, we know it’s the fate of life which everyone of us will meet eventually, yet we live all our lives in strive to develop distractions to evade it. Life is reduced to a handful of facts when it ends. Perhaps the presence of ‘the others’ is what we require to share the absurdity of life. Since we may enjoy solitude of our existence but we need some to share that we do so. There are other ways and means to share our feelings of longing towards life and thereby also reaching wider audience; and that’s where great pieces of arts take birth- may be it literature, music or any other forms of art. And perhaps we are fortunate beyond our comprehension to have that ability to express ourselves and probably that’s what keeps us sane through the ‘insanity’ pervaded in life. But do we actually need someone whom we may actually share absurdity prevailed in our life, maybe not. Perhaps the idea, of someone there listening to us, is profound enough to keep us moving (And probably that is how great religions of the world took birth). Humanity, as we know it, is quite delicate and tenacious. We may often think that happiness is all about smiling, happy looking human being but human emotions are very subtle and had they not been so, we wouldn’t have been reading this book or perhaps any book based on human psychology, great literatures wouldn’t have been so great. This perfectly correlates with these lines by B.S. Ingemann- Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy. The seventy years old Ellinor struck with the need to confide in someone. She choses her friend Anna, the deceased first wife of Ellinor’s second husband, Georg. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor nevertheless finds it meaningful to divulge long-held secrets and burdens of her past, her courtship with her husband; their secretly charmed friendship with Anna and Georg; the disastrous ski trip that shattered the two couples’lives. She may do away with the appearances she might had put to keep up with the absurdity of life, for she need not to do so, however, gradually she realized that one can’t divulge one’s secrets and emotions fully even to someone whom one may be in relationship. 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. That was never the meaning of words. That is why I am speaking to you. This elegant and nuanced literary gem explores the intricacies of friendship, secrets, and two marriages. The novel expands into the broader love stories of Ellinor’s mother, the war, and its aftermath, also contrasting those themes with the petty carping between Stefan, one of the twins, his wife, and their attitudes toward Ellinor. Ellinor’s feelings of identification with or obligation toward Anna are ultimately illustrated by her admission that When I moved in with Georg and the boys, I had the picture framed of the two of you dancing a slowfox a few years before we met. I hung it on the wall in their room, so that they could see how much their parents had loved each other. It’s the only thing that counts for a child. We forgive our parents when they forget us, if only they love each other. Ellinor’s grief is private and painful, not a rending of garments or tearing of hair but a constant ache of absence – as much for Anna as it is for Georg. Anna’s twins, who accepted Ellinor’s love when they were children, have grown into distant middle-aged men, while her love for them has become “the recollection of a feeling, not the feeling itself”. She tells Anna “it is true that one is no longer oneself” in the face of grief, but, as Ellinor unfolds her story, revealing secrets long hidden, it seems as if she has never quite inhabited herself. Grondahl expresses the subtle and delicate emotions- love, guilt, grief, courage, loss- of human beings though this seemingly simple prose however he chosen the most crucial details to convey various phases of human life, how human beings behave awkwardly when faced grief, how one goes through shyness and loss in life on being felt alienated from one’s relatives, surroundings. But one braves every personification of absurdity of life and eventually come to terms with the life and chooses to start the ‘circle’ again. The power of forgiveness is what this novel focuses upon– if you don’t allow yourself to be a victim, refuse to live your life as though you have been wronged, and try not to judge, then it is possible to be happy, often happy as the title says, even in circumstances which may not be in accord to our liking. The book is one of the most profound depictions of human psychology I have read off late. Definitely recommended to someone who wants to experience extraordinarity of life through morbid events. 4/5 *edited on 30.07.18

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    When 70 year-old Ellinor’s husband Georg passes, she finds herself alone, lonely and reflecting on the years past, friends who are now gone. Children grown and moved away, not that she could share these thoughts with them. All those whom she could turn to when she had a story or a memory to share, questions needing answers, or simply needed comfort: Gone. ”Love was. Is it no longer? Yes it is, it does not die with the man, but for how long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms f When 70 year-old Ellinor’s husband Georg passes, she finds herself alone, lonely and reflecting on the years past, friends who are now gone. Children grown and moved away, not that she could share these thoughts with them. All those whom she could turn to when she had a story or a memory to share, questions needing answers, or simply needed comfort: Gone. ”Love was. Is it no longer? Yes it is, it does not die with the man, but for how long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms for the grains of dust in a shaft of sunlight? When does it become the memory of a feeling, no longer the feeling itself?” In her solitude, she turns to her friend, Anna, to share her thoughts and feelings. Though Anna is among those no longer living, she is the only one whose presence, even if in her thoughts alone, can ease Ellinor’s sorrow, who could ever understand how she feels, or forgive her for her secrets kept. Forgive her for the life she’s lived. Offer comfort, solace, friendship. Anna was not just Ellinor’s friend, she was her best friend, and she was also Georg’s first wife. This is a lovely, very introspective book, without a lot of highs and lows. Still, there is an ever-present aura of reflective melancholy. A life lived - but not over yet … and maybe she can summon enough courage, strength to start over in this new place, find new things to fill her days. While this is a relatively short book, 176 pages, the story feels greater than its size belies, more significant, momentous. Perhaps this is because it feels so genuine, so true, so human, raw, but at the same time there is an understated elegance to this story and how it is relayed. The sparse prose as well the grace with which this grief is tenderly, lovingly handled will be remembered. ”Love doesn’t know, does it? It only has its moment, for as long as it lasts.” Published – 11 Apr 2017 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Twelve Books

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    An old woman named Ellinor talks to her dead best friend about her life. That's the whole enchilada. Sounds exciting, huh? Well I just LOVED this book. I was sorry when it was over and I no longer had access to Ellinor's head. It’s pretty funny that I ended up giving this book 5 enthusiastic stars, because when I started it I was sort of having a tantrum—I couldn’t figure out was going on in the story AT ALL, and the language seemed super stilted, cold, and clunky. I was not seeing any “whole enc An old woman named Ellinor talks to her dead best friend about her life. That's the whole enchilada. Sounds exciting, huh? Well I just LOVED this book. I was sorry when it was over and I no longer had access to Ellinor's head. It’s pretty funny that I ended up giving this book 5 enthusiastic stars, because when I started it I was sort of having a tantrum—I couldn’t figure out was going on in the story AT ALL, and the language seemed super stilted, cold, and clunky. I was not seeing any “whole enchilada.” The ingredients didn’t go together. I kept having to reread sentences, shaking my head in frustration. Man did I struggle. I went so far as to write myself a note saying that the cadence of the language absolutely did not fit with the cadence of the language in my head. Ha, don’t ask me what that means, but I was convinced this book and I were not going to be friends. I even considered abandoning it, to avoid the torture I was sure was ahead of me. But I kept remembering that good friends gave the book high marks, so I kept going. Besides, it was a short novel, I told myself. Before long (we’re talking maybe only 20 pages), I was glued to the page. Suddenly, the language seemed beautiful and flowing, and the storyline pulled me in. Never have I done such a complete and vigorous turnaround, especially in terms of style. How bizarre to at first think the language clunky, and then decide it is smooth and poetic! I have since reread the previously torturous beginning of the book, and there was absolutely nothing about any “cadence” that was weird. It’s like at first I didn’t have the key to get into the language; I was stuck in a room where they were speaking another tongue. I did figure out why it had started out being such a torturous read, though. Here are the first two lines, which, of course, now that I understand what’s going on, I think are totally brilliant: “Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband.” When I first read this, my editor self was going nuts. I was doing a literal reading. So wait a minute--Anna’s husband (a separate guy), had died also? That damn “also” really threw me! When I got to the second line, “Your husband, our husband,” I was WAY confused. What did the author mean by saying “OUR husband?” The answer to the puzzle is that there is just one guy. That guy is named Georg. Anna had once been married to Georg. After Anna died, Ellinor married Georg. It gets convoluted when you learn that Anna had had an affair with Ellinor’s first husband, Henning. See? Musical relationships! But enough about my initial confusion. I’m just glad I persevered or I would have missed this wonder of a novel. This is such a beauteous character story of a newly widowed Ellinor, a 70-year-old who is talking to her dead friend, Anna. Complex, introspective, wise, and observant, Ellinor comes alive on the page. She is full of contradictions: she is strong yet fragile, peaceful yet resentful, sassy yet reticent, sad yet happy. She has a need to tell Anna that she knew about the affair, to catch Anna up on how Anna’s kids turned out, to tell her secrets and heartaches, and to forgive. I grew so attached to Ellinor. I always love books that are introspective, full of psychological insights—ones that make us think about people’s motives, insecurities, indecisions. That’s what this book does in spades. I felt like I was going deep deep deep into Ellinor’s heart and soul. I hovered there, ears tuned, eyes sharp, mesmerized by her story. An ordinary one in most respects, but in the hands of this writer, her life became extraordinary. Every observation she made seemed brilliant. I just wanted to keep reading and reading to see what she'd think about next. Maybe it's just her acute awareness of herself and of the people she loved. I hung on every word, every little bit of her history. It says something that when I picked up the book to search for quotes, I became entranced so thoroughly, I just started re-reading and forgot about my search. During her years with Georg, Ellinor had been closed up in a way—to keep safe, to keep the peace. She had felt a duty to obey the rules of wife and mother. When she reflects on those days, she does so with some sadness, some anger, some wistfulness. You get the idea that she acted loving toward Georg and his kids, but it also seems like she was just going through the motions, and that beneath the surface was a profound loneliness. I think the deaths of her first husband, Henning, and her best friend, Anna, as well as their secret affair, rattled her to the core, yet she had to survive, move on, seek the security of a relationship (with Georg) that was comforting and peaceful. Now that Georg has died and she is alone, she can dispense with the world's, her family's, expectations, and truly be free to do what she damn well pleases. Say what she thinks to her sons, be unpredictable, move to a furniture-less, stark apartment in the big city. Not depend on people. Now, she exudes a quiet confidence. Well, not so quiet in one case—she blew up at her step daughter-in-law, Mie, one time. (Although the spew was on the quiet side, it was pointed, intense, and clever.) I was impressed by Ellinor’s straightforward and acerbic anger; I was rooting for her. I felt like Mie deserved it even though I knew little about her. Despite that one blow-up, Ellinor has a very appealing quiet dignity about her. Occasionally, I could tell that English wasn't the author’s native language. There were subtle stumbles in grammar or sentence structure, but it was very infrequent, almost imperceptible. The language (ha, and yes, the cadence) was glorious. There were no wasted words, no philosophical musings, no sentimentality, no syrup. Here are some nuggets: “I have put iodine on their knees. I have blown up in front of them, and I have put a hand on their slight boy shoulders when they were low. I have taught them to look people in the eyes when they say hello, and I have taught them the zodiac.” “I realized I was burdening her with my own homeless anger.” “He was angry, and his anger had been accumulating. He had been compelled to deposit it at the bank, since he couldn't get through to me on the cell or the landline phone, and now it was payback time, with interest.” “It stung in a secret place, to see the three of you together.” Okay. I’ll stop gushing. Read this book, is all I can say. I’ll be checking out earlier works by Grondahl. Where has he been all my life? Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This is a near perfect book. I am so in awe that I have been staring at the screen for a while trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words, preferably coherent ones. Sometimes there comes along a book that feels true in a way that is rarely achieved. It seems like Jens Christian Grøndahl boiled down life and refined it to fit it into this short 176 page long novel. Recently widowed Ellinor addresses her late best friend (and her late husband's first wife) to talk about her feelings, her lif This is a near perfect book. I am so in awe that I have been staring at the screen for a while trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words, preferably coherent ones. Sometimes there comes along a book that feels true in a way that is rarely achieved. It seems like Jens Christian Grøndahl boiled down life and refined it to fit it into this short 176 page long novel. Recently widowed Ellinor addresses her late best friend (and her late husband's first wife) to talk about her feelings, her life, their friendship, loss, love and everything inbetween. While she knows that Anna cannot hear her, she still finds solace in this one-sided conversation. Her life is an ordinary one but what the author made of it is absolutely awe-inspiring. He chooses just the rights words and phrases to make this story extraordinary while still grounded in reality. I loved the characters created here; especially Ellinor is a wonderful person and I enjoyed spending time in her head a whole lot. She is introspective and thoughtful, she is witty and lovely, but most of all she just seems so immensely real that I feel like I really got to know her, flaws and strengths and all. Her family feels real in a way that side characters rarely feel as well and while they drove me nuts in parts (as they drive Ellinor nuts as well) I cannot deny knowing people like them. The circular nature of the narrative structure works so beautifully I am tempted to immediately reread the book as I am sure it would add an even extra layer. Every description is on point and there is no sentence that feels superfluous. The whole book is so tightly woven and sparsely told in just my favourite way. I cannot recommend this book enough! _____ I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Twelve Books in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    4.5 Stars. Who is this author Jens Christian Grondahl? I like him....I like his writing and I like Ellinor! 70 years young, Ellinor is a good person, an extremely forgiving and tough soul who lets loose of all her secrets writing to her exceptionally beautiful, but long-dead friend Anna....who just happens to be the first wife of her beloved and recently departed Georg.In OFTEN I AM HAPPY, memories of a disastrous ski trip....with her first husband Henning, Anna and Georg draw the reader in co 4.5 Stars. Who is this author Jens Christian Grondahl? I like him....I like his writing and I like Ellinor! 70 years young, Ellinor is a good person, an extremely forgiving and tough soul who lets loose of all her secrets writing to her exceptionally beautiful, but long-dead friend Anna....who just happens to be the first wife of her beloved and recently departed Georg.In OFTEN I AM HAPPY, memories of a disastrous ski trip....with her first husband Henning, Anna and Georg draw the reader in coveting those details of what really happened that awful day, but it's the big secret Ellinor has long kept hidden inside that (for me) was the heart of the story showing the source of her pride and strength.Less than 200 pages, but engrossing and heartfelt giving the reader a lot of bang for the buck!Many thanks to NetGalley and Twelve Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Well, this was quite a different story, in the best of ways! Ellinor is seventy years old and Georg, her husband of many years has just died. In this short book, she addresses Georg’s first wife Anna, who was also her own best friend..about the years of raising Anna and Georg’s children, her relationship with Georg, and her own past, and other things relatable to their history..but the thing is, Anna has been dead for forty years. I found this story to be so full of compassion and strength.. it wa Well, this was quite a different story, in the best of ways! Ellinor is seventy years old and Georg, her husband of many years has just died. In this short book, she addresses Georg’s first wife Anna, who was also her own best friend..about the years of raising Anna and Georg’s children, her relationship with Georg, and her own past, and other things relatable to their history..but the thing is, Anna has been dead for forty years. I found this story to be so full of compassion and strength.. it was a beautiful.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greta G

    ”The facts of a life become so enigmatic when that life is over.” Have you ever been reading a book, assuming it was written by a woman, while it was not? Or the other way around? Well I just had that experience. I didn’t pay attention to the name of the author when I started reading this book, whose name sounded foreign to me anyway. After the story was finished, there was a picture of the author who clearly is a man. I was positively baffled. The story is presented in the form of a letter by a s ”The facts of a life become so enigmatic when that life is over.” Have you ever been reading a book, assuming it was written by a woman, while it was not? Or the other way around? Well I just had that experience. I didn’t pay attention to the name of the author when I started reading this book, whose name sounded foreign to me anyway. After the story was finished, there was a picture of the author who clearly is a man. I was positively baffled. The story is presented in the form of a letter by a seventy-year-old woman Ellinor to her close friend Anna who died some forty years earlier. Both women were married to the same man, Georg. No, not simultaneously. If that were the case, I would have known immediately it was written by a man. The story revolves around the lives of Ellinor, Anna, Ellinor’s mother, and Ellinor’s daughter-in-law. The men in their lives play important roles, mind you, only the story is told from the point of view of the women, especially Ellinor’s point of view. ”I became the kind of girl who doesn’t stand out, good at finding my place and blending in. Opportunistic is the word, I guess. You arrange yourself with your shame, as you would with some deformity.” It has been compared to Our Souls at Night, but in my opinion ‘Often I am happy’ has much more depth. With all respect to the late Kent Haruf, and although his name sounds like a character from ‘The Hobbit’, this Danish author, Grøndahl, brings more depth in his writing, with fewer words. And that’s something I like. I also noticed that much more women than men read this book. Why is it that most men shy away from stories that are mainly about women, especially when women’s emotions are involved? These emotions often concern men in their lives, and in this case, almost exclusively, so surely it should be of interest to male readers, shouldn’t it? What’s more, Ellinor, the narrator of this story, is a most enigmatic woman, and she writes her letter in sparse and elegant prose. Thanks to my friends whose reviews brought this book to my attention. ”You are always alone with your shame, and it makes you almost hate the one you love. I was a mistake; I should never have been born. In the mind of my younger self, my mother’s love story could never outweigh the story of her disgrace. It was mine, too, and it has followed me all these years like a stubborn stray dog.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    Slim but powerful and moving meditation on the ebbs and flows of life, love, family and friendship. Ellinor is a Danish widow in her seventies who has just lost her second husband, Georg. In a contemplative mood, Ellinor reflects back on her life and addresses those musings and insights to her long dead friend, Anna. Anna also happened to be Georg’s first wife, and had an affair with Ellinor’s first husband, Henning. That situation makes things just a wee bit confusing at first, but it all sorts Slim but powerful and moving meditation on the ebbs and flows of life, love, family and friendship. Ellinor is a Danish widow in her seventies who has just lost her second husband, Georg. In a contemplative mood, Ellinor reflects back on her life and addresses those musings and insights to her long dead friend, Anna. Anna also happened to be Georg’s first wife, and had an affair with Ellinor’s first husband, Henning. That situation makes things just a wee bit confusing at first, but it all sorts itself out as Ellinor reminisces on their friendship, each of their histories and the life events that determined Ellinor’s life choices and ultimate path. This is a very deep and thoughtful kind of novel, a final accounting of one’s life that is gentle, knowing, honest and without malice. The real shocker here is this was written by a man. Ellinor is so genuine and her female perspective is so true, I can hardly believe she isn’t real. Lovely and very well done. As an older woman who has more life behind me than in front of me (quantity, not quality!), this really resonated with me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Such a unique and beautiful way to present a life, through the writing of a woman in her seventies to her long-deceased best friend and the first wife of the husband she has just lost. The title of this book is deceptively simple, yet truly meaningful. Imagine someone introducing themselves to you with this sentence; what would you expect might follow these words. I hadn't really thought about it before I began reading but I have thought about it a lot since I finished. Ellinor is writing of her Such a unique and beautiful way to present a life, through the writing of a woman in her seventies to her long-deceased best friend and the first wife of the husband she has just lost. The title of this book is deceptively simple, yet truly meaningful. Imagine someone introducing themselves to you with this sentence; what would you expect might follow these words. I hadn't really thought about it before I began reading but I have thought about it a lot since I finished. Ellinor is writing of her life to Anna, long-dead, mother of two sons and wife of Georg. After Anna and Ellinor's husband's deaths, but not not right away, these good friends developed a deeper relationship and Ellinor and Georg married. This is the simple story in some ways. The surface story. But there is so much more. There is the story of the close friendship of the two couples, the story of the two marriages; then there are the back stories; Ellinor writes of her life. Often I am happy could be her mantra. She seeks out moments of happiness in her life and finds many. She loves and is loved in return but always there is something holding her in another space..... There are secrets. This is an introspective novel, a woman trying to look back at the whole of her life and learn to live with it all, finally, and find happiness. I recommend this book to all who like this type of work; it is somewhat different in structure, style and even story. It is one that will leave you thinking about how you define happiness in your own life.. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Spare and eloquent with beautifully written emotional resonance. I absolutely loved Ellinor and her story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Is it ever possible to know the secrets and burdens that another person carries – even if that person is a spouse or a best friend? This spare and elegant novel lays bare the innermost thoughts of its narrator, the recent widow Ellinor, a 70 year old, as she confides in her husband Georg’s first wife and her best friend, who is also deceased. Slowly, deliberately and lyrically, Ellinor reveals milestones of her life: her courtship by her more outward-going first husband, the charmed friendship th Is it ever possible to know the secrets and burdens that another person carries – even if that person is a spouse or a best friend? This spare and elegant novel lays bare the innermost thoughts of its narrator, the recent widow Ellinor, a 70 year old, as she confides in her husband Georg’s first wife and her best friend, who is also deceased. Slowly, deliberately and lyrically, Ellinor reveals milestones of her life: her courtship by her more outward-going first husband, the charmed friendship that developed between them and another couple, the undisclosed memories of her childhood that shaped who she is, and the power of self-acceptance and forgiveness. At times poignant, at times provocative, at times melancholy, reading this book is akin to being trusted with the precious backstory of an unknowable woman of great value. As far as plot points, it is best for the reader to go through the art of discovery without prior expectations. The book has inexplicably been compared to The Dinner, but I think a more apt comparison would be to Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton. Masterfully self-translated, this is a perceptive story of great emotional depth and quietly stunning insight. 4.5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lorilin || thegoodbug

    Ellinor is 70 and alone. Her husband has just died. Well, he was her second husband. And he was once married to her former best friend, Anna, who is also dead. And who, let's just be real, probably had an affair with Henning, Ellinor's first husband. In other words, things are complicated. Or they were. Before everyone died. So now it is just Ellinor, and she has some things to say to her dead used-to-be best friend, her friend who she adored before it all went wrong. Often I Am Happy is Ellinor' Ellinor is 70 and alone. Her husband has just died. Well, he was her second husband. And he was once married to her former best friend, Anna, who is also dead. And who, let's just be real, probably had an affair with Henning, Ellinor's first husband. In other words, things are complicated. Or they were. Before everyone died. So now it is just Ellinor, and she has some things to say to her dead used-to-be best friend, her friend who she adored before it all went wrong. Often I Am Happy is Ellinor's side of the story. This is where she unfetters herself, shares it all, divulges secrets, and finally, finally expresses some of that anger. Truly, what a lovely little nugget this book turned out to be. Short, descriptive, thoughtful. Sad and contemplative, yes, but also light and entertaining. Ellinor is insightful and honest, easy to empathize with, even when she's disagreeable. Her frustration with her grown stepchildren is amusing, her callousness off-putting but also earned. I can't imagine what it would be like to take over someone else's life after that person died, to be the less-vibrant version of another woman, the second-tier stand-in for a bright and shiny (and backstabbing) best friend. It's sad to think that it took Ellinor so long to step out from under the shadows of everyone else's star, but I celebrated with her when freedom finally arrived, even if it also came shrouded in grief. Often I Am Happy really surprised me, honestly. Such melancholy subject matter, but the book is so well-written and honest and endearing that I couldn't help but enjoy it. This one is a gem. Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine. See more of my book reviews at www.BugBugBooks.com!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    A woman talks to her dead friend, the first wife of her now-dead husband. A story unspools with the alacrity of thought processes—a thought in present time suddenly catapults the narrator and you into a past time. There is tension, like a pot of water on a low flame on the stove. It heats, maybe simmers a while, and then threatens to boil, but never quite does. And that's okay. I so admire the daring thought and time transitions, and to stay with them, I read slowly and enjoyed the simmer, trust A woman talks to her dead friend, the first wife of her now-dead husband. A story unspools with the alacrity of thought processes—a thought in present time suddenly catapults the narrator and you into a past time. There is tension, like a pot of water on a low flame on the stove. It heats, maybe simmers a while, and then threatens to boil, but never quite does. And that's okay. I so admire the daring thought and time transitions, and to stay with them, I read slowly and enjoyed the simmer, trusting that if I didn't understand something immediately, I would in a few sentences. The book is only 167 pages, and no boil works. The jacket copy says this will appeal to readers of The Dinner and Dept. of Speculation, which is rather brilliant. There is definitely a flavor of Herman Koch, but not The Dinner; the echoes are of the World War II politics in the background of his magnificent Dear Mr. M. And there is the free-wheeling domestic drama of Dept. of Speculation. I liked both of those books a lot, and I like this one. [There is one bad typo that stopped me: a "w" instead of a "t." The sentence is the first line of p. 114: "… have to what without the details …" and it should be "have to that without the details …" (After gnashing my teeth, rereading many times, writing to the publisher, and finally figuring out the mistake, I actually changed it in my library copy. Don't tell anyone.)]

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Often I Am Happy is an understated 167 page novel narrated by a 70 year old woman who peels away her past, layer by layer. This is not just a meditative soliloquy - the pages are strewn with hints that add a level of tension. As a reader I wanted to puzzle together Ellinor's life which became more interesting and complex as the novel progressed. Often I Am Happy is an understated 167 page novel narrated by a 70 year old woman who peels away her past, layer by layer. This is not just a meditative soliloquy - the pages are strewn with hints that add a level of tension. As a reader I wanted to puzzle together Ellinor's life which became more interesting and complex as the novel progressed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    OFTEN I AM HAPPY BY JENS CHRISTIAN GRONDAHL This is a beautiful story told by Ellinor to Anna. Georg has just died after being married to Ellinor for over forty years. Anna was Georg's first wife and Ellinor's best friend. Georg, Anna, Ellinor's first husband all share a history. Ellinor writes to Anna and confides in her about her father and mother. She also tells Anna about her twin son's life. She confronts Anna and at the same time shares moments and memories. Details about Ellinor's entire l OFTEN I AM HAPPY BY JENS CHRISTIAN GRONDAHL This is a beautiful story told by Ellinor to Anna. Georg has just died after being married to Ellinor for over forty years. Anna was Georg's first wife and Ellinor's best friend. Georg, Anna, Ellinor's first husband all share a history. Ellinor writes to Anna and confides in her about her father and mother. She also tells Anna about her twin son's life. She confronts Anna and at the same time shares moments and memories. Details about Ellinor's entire life. Why after forty year's since Anna has died does she feel suddenly compelled to share with Anna? Ellinor prefers to move away from the house she shared with Georg and Anna's twin boys. She prefers one of the twins's very much over the twin that she lived next door to. Stefan and his wife want Ellinor to stay in the house but she doesn't care for Stefan. She is not lonely. Sometimes she misses Georg. She tells Anna that her years living with Georg outnumber Anna's time married to Georg. Ellinor loves Anna but she doesn't hesitate to tell Anna she hasn't apologized. This is a quiet meditation of a woman looking back over her life and telling her story. Ellinor tells Anna things she has kept hidden from both husbands. It has been forty years since Anna's death. I wondered why Ellinor didn't tell her story to Georg since she loved him and misses him. My guess is she lived those moments with Georg with his sons and Anna didn't. Thank you to Net Galley, Jens Christian Grondahl and Hachette Book Group for providing me with my digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    There are novels that from page one make clear that the writer has fully understood the layeredness, the complexity and the elusiveness of life; and that he does not need to prove that with solemn proclamations, but in simple words, almost carelessly. This novel is one of them: barely 140 pages, but what a depth it contains. I'm surprised that I hadn't heard of Jens Christian Grondahl (°1959) before. Formally he offers a quite simple story: it is a long monologue, a kind of letter, from a certain There are novels that from page one make clear that the writer has fully understood the layeredness, the complexity and the elusiveness of life; and that he does not need to prove that with solemn proclamations, but in simple words, almost carelessly. This novel is one of them: barely 140 pages, but what a depth it contains. I'm surprised that I hadn't heard of Jens Christian Grondahl (°1959) before. Formally he offers a quite simple story: it is a long monologue, a kind of letter, from a certain 70 year old Ellinor to her close friend Anna, who died in an avalanche 40 years before; Ellinor then married Anna's husband Georg and raised the two sons of Anna and George with him. Georg recently died ("Now your husband is dead too, Anna. Your husband. Our husband.", is the intriguing first line of this book), and that is apparently the moment that two pretty dramatic elements of her life, fully come into her consciousness, and encourage her to face them and act decisively. That sounds pretty vague, but I really can't release more, without spoiling the reading pleasure (the term is not entirely appropriate here). But hey, this novel is not really about that plot: it is about the process of grief of Ellinor and about the growing awareness of Ellinor about herself, a re)discovery of her own identity, now that she has come to stand alone. The nice thing is that this woman looks reality into the eye and acts accordingly. Grondahl does not use great metaphors, his style is almost as if spoken (after all, this is a monologue) and quite unadorned. But that is the great strength: he lets Ellinor speak straightforward about things that have remained largely covered throughout her life. And that is accompanied by a variety of hesitations and doubts, resolute intentions and harsh criticisms, but always with respect for the fragility of life and for the complexity of relations between people. My only disappointment is that this monologue is a bit short: I think that Grondahl could easily have explored a few storylines a bit further. Because now only one of the sons, top banker Stefan and his haughty and bossy wife Mia ("they filled their gigantic house with themselves") are dealt with quite extensively (a bit as caricatures), but the other - probably more interesting - son Morten, stays virtually out of the picture. George also is painted as no more than a goodish man. There could have been more to it. But no complaints: this is high-quality literature! (3.5 stars)

  23. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    We know at the start of this elegant short novel that Ellinor, recently widowed at 70, is writing a letter to her long-dead best friend. She knows that Anna is no longer sentient, but she understands that “Love was. Is it no longer?...how long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms…When does it become the memory of a feeling, no longer the feeling itself?” Ellinor comprehends that at her age, her relevance is diminishing, and by talking to Anna, the power of her words will solid We know at the start of this elegant short novel that Ellinor, recently widowed at 70, is writing a letter to her long-dead best friend. She knows that Anna is no longer sentient, but she understands that “Love was. Is it no longer?...how long will it flutter by itself, reach out in the empty rooms…When does it become the memory of a feeling, no longer the feeling itself?” Ellinor comprehends that at her age, her relevance is diminishing, and by talking to Anna, the power of her words will solidify memories that would otherwise be forgotten. The entire book is framed by Ellinor sharing her deepest, most personal memories, feelings, and thoughts with her buried best friend. In this way, the living reader mirrors the best friend, and we are the receptive vessels. I felt the most intimate secrets of this unknowable woman surge through me and bring me to tears. OFTEN I AM HAPPY comes from a poem by Danish poet B.S. Ingemann that well echoes the themes of Danish author Jens Christian Grøndahl’s short novel: Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; For no heart fully shares my joy. Often I am sorrowful and yet have to laugh, That no one shall my fearful tear behold. Normally, I don’t write out an entire epigraph of a book, but this capsulizes the essence of the story. What do we have but our memories? And how do we convey them, leave their imprints, through eternity? The story is compact and minimalist, disclosing the lives of two couples and their families. The moments of love, passion, pain, sadness, tragedy, shame, betrayal, confusion--the entire sphere of human emotions, is represented here in stunning, understated ways, and yet so effervescent. Lyrical, moving, and undulating, the storytelling is tender, graceful, and heartbreaking. This is the first time I’ve read a novel by an author who translated his own work. What a succulent translation! I will be scooping up all his translated material. Literature lovers will want to read this, discover, weep, and share Ellinor’s heart. “The facts of a life become so enigmatic when that life is over.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    A very short read, but took me a little bit to connect. All in all a worthwhile little book, about a woman at age 70 recounting her life to her deceased best friend, who also happened to be her husband's first wife. Some wise words: It strikes me that my account must seem sad to you but I am not a sad person, you know that. Often I am happy, as the song goes, happy inside, even if I can't always show it.... You're being pushed and pressed, sometimes even crushed, and you can be knocked off your c A very short read, but took me a little bit to connect. All in all a worthwhile little book, about a woman at age 70 recounting her life to her deceased best friend, who also happened to be her husband's first wife. Some wise words: It strikes me that my account must seem sad to you but I am not a sad person, you know that. Often I am happy, as the song goes, happy inside, even if I can't always show it.... You're being pushed and pressed, sometimes even crushed, and you can be knocked off your course, but you remain the same on the inside.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn C.

    3.5 Stars

  26. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    After reading this book and wondering why I picked it I went back to my list of TBR books in which sometimes I made notes of why a book is on my TBR list. So for this book, I had placed a star with “Get it!” next to it. So that was not very illuminating because obviously there was something that spurred me to write “Get it!”, so I went to Goodreads and typed in the name of this book and then saw a lot of my GR friends gave it 4 or 5 stars. So that was my reason for “Get it!” So with that said, I After reading this book and wondering why I picked it I went back to my list of TBR books in which sometimes I made notes of why a book is on my TBR list. So for this book, I had placed a star with “Get it!” next to it. So that was not very illuminating because obviously there was something that spurred me to write “Get it!”, so I went to Goodreads and typed in the name of this book and then saw a lot of my GR friends gave it 4 or 5 stars. So that was my reason for “Get it!” So with that said, I guess my GR friends have learned that sometimes I deviate from them in liking a book more or less than them. But we remain GR friends. 😊 So I liked the book. I thought the writing was good. I liked the narrator, Ellinor, who had recently lost her husband Georg to a heart attack. And she had her history to relate in this book, and that was interesting to, as was her relationship to a snooty daughter-in-law Mie. What dampened my enthusiasm from really liking it (4 stars) was I found it hard to believe who she was relating her narrative to (who was she talking to). She was relating her narratives to her best friend who had died 40 years ago. I think in some books I am willing to discount my disbelief for one reason or another (e.g., maybe the plot is so damn clever), but in this case I couldn’t. Another problem I had was that there was not enough back story as to make me believe that Ellinor’s bond was so incredibly strong with Anna prior to her death that that would sustain her talking to Anna 40 years after she was dead. I think I could have perhaps seen that if they had been best friends since early childhood and were practically inseparable, but as I recall they met well beyond when they were children, so she didn’t know Anna that long before she died (~10-15 years?). So bottom line is that I realize that talking to somebody who is dead is not abnormal— people lose loved ones and they still talk to them. I get that. But in this book it is almost as if Ellinor first starts talking to her dead best friend, Anna, 40 years after her death. And that I didn’t get. I have not provided much of a synopsis because that could ruin the pleasure of reading the book (giving too much away). Reviews from periodicals, etc.: https://www.eurolitnetwork.com/riveti... from a blog site: http://marywhipplereviews.com/jens-ch...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    For me it was never a question of forgiveness once you were gone. It doesn’t make sense to stand there forgiving or not forgiving a stone, be it limestone or granite. Your life, any life, is reduced to a handful of facts when it ends. It was. This and that happened, and we can make of it what we like. (p.4) … The attorney said something about undivided possession, and I thought about our bed at home, how unaccustomed I still was, at night, to the undivided stillness. The linen, the pillowcases, t For me it was never a question of forgiveness once you were gone. It doesn’t make sense to stand there forgiving or not forgiving a stone, be it limestone or granite. Your life, any life, is reduced to a handful of facts when it ends. It was. This and that happened, and we can make of it what we like. (p.4) … The attorney said something about undivided possession, and I thought about our bed at home, how unaccustomed I still was, at night, to the undivided stillness. The linen, the pillowcases, the finely woven cotton. It was time to change. For a few endless, lonely seconds it felt again as if I were swelling inside to the point of bursting, compact and breathless, and I had to clutch the armrest. It comes when I least expect it. It would be glossing over to say that I am in mourning when it is mourning that fills me up, that shapeless lump, growing unrestrainedly. (p.11)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dianah

    "Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." So starts the -- sometimes melancholy, sometimes blistering -- epistle from 70 year-old Ellinor, to her best friend, Anna. Ellinor and Henning, and Anna and Georg: two couples, best friends; they eat dinner together, they go on vacation together, until a crisis explodes, and both couples are devastated. Ellinor's dissertation on marriage, tragedy, parenting, infidelity and aging, among other things, is starkly heartbreaking and unr "Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." So starts the -- sometimes melancholy, sometimes blistering -- epistle from 70 year-old Ellinor, to her best friend, Anna. Ellinor and Henning, and Anna and Georg: two couples, best friends; they eat dinner together, they go on vacation together, until a crisis explodes, and both couples are devastated. Ellinor's dissertation on marriage, tragedy, parenting, infidelity and aging, among other things, is starkly heartbreaking and unrelentingly sad. Yet, there are moments of pure bliss, unbound love, and poignant, razor-sharp insight. An amazing job by Jens Christian Grondahl, Often I am Happy is just beautiful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    "Often I Am Happy" by Jens Christian Grondahl, is really a novelette that can be read in one spellbound sitting. Septuagenarian Ellinor, is writing to her now dead friend, Anna. It begins: "Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." Who could stop reading after such a tantalizing introduction? Not I! I won't detail the plot because the joy in this novel is the gradual unfolding of how Ellinor and Anna each got where they are on either side of the grave. Grondahl translated t "Often I Am Happy" by Jens Christian Grondahl, is really a novelette that can be read in one spellbound sitting. Septuagenarian Ellinor, is writing to her now dead friend, Anna. It begins: "Now your husband is also dead, Anna. Your husband, our husband." Who could stop reading after such a tantalizing introduction? Not I! I won't detail the plot because the joy in this novel is the gradual unfolding of how Ellinor and Anna each got where they are on either side of the grave. Grondahl translated the novel into English from his original Danish and the prose is beautiful, I can only imagine that it is beautiful in Danish as well. As Ellinor tells Anna about the life Anna left behind four decades earlier, Elllinor also confesses about her own origin story; one that she has never revealed to anyone. In widowhood Ellinor has found her voice and I loved it. She can now speak boldly and honestly about things she "kept to herself" before. I especially loved her disdain for navel-gazing and the privileged and selfish way some children are being raised these days (evidently it's not just here in the US!) I think most readers will thoroughly enjoy spending a few hours letting Ellinor tell them her story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I listened to this book on Audible. I thought it would be a quick read, less than 4 hours. Nope , it took me twice that time, as I had to stop several times and re- listen or simply stop and “think.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, I would then daydream of something similar that has happened or perhaps could happen to me in my own life. Sheesh!!! All of this thinking and introspection!! It was a fabulous book 🙂. . I enjoyed the Audible version quite a bit , but I’m thinking I may also read the pri I listened to this book on Audible. I thought it would be a quick read, less than 4 hours. Nope , it took me twice that time, as I had to stop several times and re- listen or simply stop and “think.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, I would then daydream of something similar that has happened or perhaps could happen to me in my own life. Sheesh!!! All of this thinking and introspection!! It was a fabulous book 🙂. . I enjoyed the Audible version quite a bit , but I’m thinking I may also read the print version, the writing beautiful and honest. ♥️

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