This Should Be Written in the Present Tense
Soft Skull Press
Danish literary sensation—Helle Helle's first novel to be translated
into English is as addictive as reality TV because it feels well, real.
Twenty-year-old Dorte is adrift. She moves into a tiny, barely furnished rental
house across from the train station while pretending to her family that she is
commuting to college. Instead, she wanders around Copenhagen, recalls her first
love and falls into casual liaisons. On occasion, her wonderfully kind but
troubled aunt, also named Dorte, comes to visit, bearing furniture, food and
practical advice. It's not the plot that makes this slim novel impossible to
put down, but rather the writing: so spare and precise that each moment evokes
a world of emotion. Describing life across from the station—and its
constant reminder that other people have someplace real to go and friends with
whom to go—Dorte notes, "A train arrived, brakes squealing as it
drew to a halt. Then silence for a moment, and the doors opened... A single
voice laughed. The blast of a whistle, doors slamming shut, creaking coaches as
the engine pulled heavily away. I nearly said cast off." Somehow, we have
all been there, in that moment of yearning. By perfectly capturing Dorte's wistfulness
and her search for purposeful connection, Helle Helle makes us feel less alone.
Plus, there's a very neat twist on the final page. You'll think you should've
seen it coming, but there was no way you could've... Hold on.
— Dawn Raffel