Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A Change Of Time by Ida Jessen


A Change Of Time by Ida Jessen
First published in Danish as En Ny Tid by Gyldendal in Denmark in 2015. English language translation by Martin Aitken published by Archipelago Books today, the 16th April 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Set in rural Denmark in the early 20th century, A Change of Time tells the story of a schoolteacher whose husband, the town doctor, has passed away. Her subsequent diary entries form an intimate portrait of a woman rebuilding her identity, and a small rural town whose path to modernity echoes her own path to joyful independence.

Another wonderful find from Archipelago Books who have made themselves easily one of my favourite publishers over the past few years. I can be confident when I spot one of their distinctively styled book covers that the enclosed work will be worth a look and A Change Of Time is no exception. This novella is an insightful portrayal of one woman's quiet life, lived in the shadow and to the expectations of her overbearing husband. This isn't a story of an abusive marriage, but there were several moments where I was shocked by how things have changed since the time this book was set - to outside observers at least. Fru Bagge is so subsumed by Vigand Bagge's requirements that she almost seems to lose her own identity. I don't think I even learned her first name until practically the last page of the story. She isn't a weak waif though. This is an educated woman, a capable schoolteacher who ran her own village school before her marriage, but who, over the years, then became unable to independently choose her own clothes.

As we meet Fru Bagge, we learn that Vigand is terminally ill in hospital. Fru Bagge will soon be reliant entirely on herself again with even her home at risk because it is tied to the doctor's job, not to the Bagges specifically, and a new man will take up the role. A Change Of Time can almost be  a coming-of-age novella, even considering Fru Bagge's advanced years. She has a chance, finally, to strike out alone and make her own decisions again. What is uncertain though is whether losing Vigand will allow her to bloom or whether she will no longer be able to cope without his guidance. Jessen has written her characters beautifully so I could feel completely involved with this story. The rights and wrongs are ambiguous so I didn't just sympathise with Fru Bagge and feel angry at Vigand, but could understand why both behaved as they did and how that fitted into rural Danish society of a hundred or so years ago. I believe Jessen has a personal connection with the village of Thyregod and she authentically depicts this place and its community. A Change Of Time is a lovely, thoughtful historical novella.


Etsy Find!
by Nordic Ann in
Stockholm, Sweden

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ida Jessen / Historical fiction / Books from Denmark

8 comments:

  1. That sounds like an interesting story.

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    1. I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end

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  2. I read one that was very similar in that the wife was educated and brilliant in her own right, but settled back in the shadows over the years of her marriage.
    I can see why you found this one engaging with Fru now faced with change.

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    1. It was fascinating to see how she tried to retrieve the woman she used to be

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  3. It's great when you find a pub whose books never (or almost never) disappoint! Glad this was another great book for you. That's kinda cool that it's kind of a coming of age novel but with an older character. Everyone's lives are different, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who have had similar experiences in the sense of finding themselves later in life.

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    1. Some of her experiences reflected teen coming-of-age novels, but there were also things specific to finding yourself in your sixties that I would not have thought of. I think this novella would ring true with a lot of older people these days who suddenly find themselves alone.

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  4. While her loss saddens me, I find her journey into this next chapter of her life intriguing.

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    1. It was so interesting to read a personal blossoming story for a woman of more mature years

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