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Book Review: Kerrigan in Copenhagen by Thomas E. Kennedy

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I picked up Kerrigan in Copenhagen by Thomas E. Kennedy as I’d recently visited Copenhagen myself and was intrigued by the premise of the book. Kerrigan, the part-Irish, part-Danish, American writer has fled to Copenhagen, Denmark after a failed marriage and decides to write a book about the many drinking establishments to be found in the Danish capital (of which there are over 1500 according to the back of the book). ‘Kerrigan in Copenhagen’ is part of the ‘Copenhagen quartet’ by Kennedy, a set of four independent novels all set in Copenhagen.

Cover of Kerrigan in Copenhagen.

Cover of Kerrigan in Copenhagen.

A quote from a review of 'Kerrigan in Copenhagen' by the Irish Examiner

A perfect read for anyone travelling to Copenhagen, looking for a hypnotic, literary guide to a beautiful city.

— Irish Examiner

My main reason for reading this book was to see how many places mentioned in the book I recognised myself, and in this regard I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Whenever a place name is mentioned, it is typed in bold letters, whether it be a bar, restaurant, street name or otherwise, and there are many, many places mentioned in this book. As well as the numerous bars and restaurants Kerrigan visits while researching his book, there is also time to mention many other sights of Copenhagen such as the Tivoli gardens or the Hans Christian Statue outside the town hall. It certainly added to the book, being able to walk the streets of Copenhagen again with the main characters.

Kerrigan is joined for a large part of his wanderings by his research associate, a ‘voluptuous, green-eyed beauty’, who acts as an excellent way to give the reader more information about each of the places visited during the story. She carries a Moleskine notebook around with her, filled with seemingly endless facts about Copenhagen, its restaurants and bars and its famous citizens which she tells to Kerrigan at each of their stops.

Kerrigan himself is a fountain of knowledge and is constantly quoting various writers of the past. From Eliot to Ibsen, Joyce to Schade; Kerrigan seems to have a quote for every occasion. This can sometimes make the book feel a bit overfull, as if the author has got too many things he wants to say and not enough plot device to wrap these things around, but also does an excellent job of showing you Kerrigan’s character. It really conjures up this strong image of a lost, middle-aged man, well-educated and full of knowledge, but feeling that he has wasted a lot of his life and doesn’t know where he’s heading.

There is also a lot of space in the book devoted to Kerrigan’s interest in jazz music, especially the legends of jazz such as Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. This is again fleshed out with numerous facts about each musician and a strange obsession Kerrigan has about dates e.g. birth dates, death dates, concert dates etc. I feel I could have got more out of this aspect of the book if I myself was into jazz, but I have to admit, it’s not an area that I’m particularly knowledgeable about.

Overall, I quite enjoyed ‘Kerrigan in Copenhagen’. It is a very witty read and Kennedy manages to share his obvious love for literature, jazz and Copenhagen in a fascinating way. The plot bumbles along nicely, acting as more of a skeleton around which to hold the author’s discussion of his ideas, rather than as the reason for reading the book in itself, but still having some nice moments and showing enough of the main character to allow the reader to grow quite fond of him, despite his shortcomings. I’m not rushing out to read any of the other books in the Copenhagen quartet, but perhaps if I shared the author’s love for literature and jazz I would, and I would highly recommend this book to anybody who does love these things and especially those who love the beautiful city of Copenhagen.

A quote from a review of 'Kerrigan in Copenhagen' in The Times

Clever, very witty and oddly unsettling.

— The Times

A Reading of the Novel by Thomas E. Kennedy

© 2018 David

Comments

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on April 27, 2018:

This sounds a very interesting book. Thanks for the review.