This collection of short stories is some of the most intense fiction I have ever read. Dealing solely with children from abusive homes, lost women, vain women and families that are torn apart it is an ugly book to read.
Several of the stories paint a realistic picture of the 1970’s Denmark in Copenhagen. Several of the stories deal with children from broken homes, tackling themes such as child molestation and country homes. Others deal with women who cheat, who are cheated on, who can’t get out of bed because of too many antidepressants… This is not a happy book with happy stories.
Vita Andersen has a peculiarly detached language. We usually follow a main character doing something mundane, picking an outfit or going to the shop to buy beer, but in doing so we follow the inelegant, but recognisable inner monologue; the one that tells you that you’d be perfect if you lost 5 pounds, the one that lets men take advantage of you because someone might not ever love you, the one that buys a dress two sizes too small, because you’re going to go on that diet today. It is an exposure of when women are worst to themselves; a discussion of what happens when we let the worst of our fears and insecurities become our only thoughts?
The childrens stories often left me crying; children coming home to drunk mother, children being beaten for small mistakes, children being taken away from their homes. Andersen perfectly captures the naivety of the children; they know something bad is being done to them, but the don’t always know why it’s bad. Sometimes they are afraid, sometimes they are happy, but juxtaposed with the stories of sad, grown women you can’t help but feel that all the lives are and always will be hopeless.