I spent the fall holidays by the sea and decided to start the appropriately named novel “Zur See” by Dörte Hansen. It takes place on an island in the North Sea and tells the story of a family that has been living on the island for a long time, earning a living from seafaring. Over the course of the novel, however, much changes on the island, within the family, and beyond.
“Zur See” is Hansen’s third book. Her previous novels are “Mittagsstunde” and her debut “Altes Land,” both of which I devoured. Movies have already been made of both of the books, and “Altes Land” has been translated into several different languages, including in English under the title “This House is Mine.” I haven’t seen either of the movies; I’m not sure whether the movie versions would fit with the images I have in my head. All three of Hansen’s books focus on families in different generations and on the places they live or lived. They are about home, landscapes, escaping from the city, village life, and the big and small changes in life. All the stories take place in northern Germany. Hansen is a radio journalist as well as a book author. She was born in the port city of Husum in 1964 and now lives in North Frisia again, with her family. Her books clearly demonstrate her attachment to that part of the country.
I haven’t yet finished reading “Zur See.” Hansen doesn’t let her characters themselves speak much, so that gives the reader plenty of space to fill in the details with their own thoughts. I’ve just reached the part where a whale has gotten beached on the island. I’m excited to find out what happens next.
„Zur See" von Dörte Hansen, Penguin Verlag.