cover image A Change of Time

A Change of Time

Ida Jessen, trans. from the Danish by Martin Aitken. Archipelago, $17 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-939810-17-5

Jessen’s U.S. debut is a powerful and intimate portrait of a woman who, after two decades of marriage to a stoic and affectionless man, finally builds a life and identity on her own terms after her husband dies. Set mostly in the rural village of Thyregod, Denmark, in 1927 and told in a series of diary entries, the book starts with Fru Bragge—in her mid 40s and referred to for most of the book by her married name—visiting her husband, Vigand, in the hospital, where even in his dying days he is unable or unwilling to give her the tenderness she has craved all their marriage. After he dies, leaving her the means to live the rest of her life in relative comfort, Fru Bragge sifts through her memories to recall the young woman who arrived in Thyregod 20 years earlier. As she gets on with her life, including learning to drive and moving out of her house, she revisits and is visited by old school friends and other citizens of Thyregod, whose presence reminds her that she will not have to rebuild her life outside of Vigand alone. “My heart runs on ahead of me,” Fru Bragge writes in the final pages of her diary. And the reader is relieved when she follows it up with, “And I, I run after my heart.” Jessen is a talented and empathetic writer (and kudos must be given to translator Aitken, whose translation is supple and luminous), and has imbued a quiet story about a woman finding herself after her husband’s death with poignancy and stunning humanity. (Mar.)