{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

31 Aug
{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

When lifestyle writer, Helen Russell’s husband (known only as Lego Man throughout the book) got headhunted for a job in the High Temple of Lego itself… I mean Lego HQ! After much wheedling on his part, they decided to both decamp to Denmark for a year.

Because you’re never too old for Lego, amiright?

This book is a non-fiction account of their first year living in Denmark, interspersed with observations on the Danish way of life and Russell’s quest to find out whether a) the Danish really consider themselves to be very happy as individuals and b) if they are happy, how do they achieve this state of Nirvana?

I alternated between being amused and/ or interested in this book and really cheesed off with it. The information about the country’s work/life balance, schooling system and clubs were particularly strong points. Oh, and the loving descriptions of flaking pastry were pretty darn wonderful too.

As for the aspects that annoyed me: the couple’s purported inability to learn Danish as they’re English and thus incapable of learning other language, the obsession with Danes’ impressions of their nation and not including immigrants’ experiences over there, the acceptance of every statistic spouted as gospel truth. Russell makes a big deal about coming from England’s most culturally diverse city: London, as such her propensity for shock, confusion and occasional harshness towards anything she wasn’t used to rather confused me. So what if recycling has to be separated? Is it really worth the existential crisis it provoked?

This was a generally well-written, lighthearted look at Denmark. It sets the ground for a possible future novel that could explore some more complex issues faced by Denmark (on immigration, the welfare state and tolerance/ acceptance of different sexualities).


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