A Change of Time


Translated from by

Published: April 16, 2019





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Book Description

A Change of Time pieces together the life of a schoolteacher after her husband, the town doctor, passes away. Set in rural Denmark in the early 20th century, the narrator’s journal entries form an intimate portrait of a woman rebuilding her identity. Her thoughts unravel in sudden bursts, followed by quiet meditation or the rhythmic passing of days. She writes, “Memory is like a sieve. Everything runs through it,” and indeed Ida Jessen’s prose conveys the constant feeling of falling through a sieve, shaking each thought for its secret meaning. With a clear, unerring voice, the narrator gives the reader room to think and breathe. Ida Jessen’s every phrase swells with warmth and tenderness, turning over our deepest desires.

In A Change of Time, Ida Jessen has crafted a masterpiece of the epistolary novel told in diary entries. Each log is rich with detail ... Here, one-liners—beautifully translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken—are deeply felt.
Bibi Deitz, Bookforum

The text shines as an honest reckoning with the death of a spouse—but one in a deeply companionless marriage—and the life of two people who shared little but space ... Jessen, the Danish translator of Marilynne Robinson, among others, proves to have a keen Robinsonian streak of her own. She writes with the same narrative generosity, the same belief in the dignity and voice of characters that might usually be dismissed.
Joel Pinckney, The Millions

Wit and vivid descriptions are presented in equal measure, as issues of sexual desire and the need for both solitude and companionship come to the fore. An engaging, honest, and beautifully written look at love, loss, and self-realization.
Kirkus Reviews

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.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Imagine picking up a woman’s diary and trying to decipher her character. Imagine teasing out enough from the details to understand her life, her loves, and the circumstances that have made her who she is… Ida Jessen’s novel A Change of Time brings this story to life with spare, yet beautiful, prose superbly translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.
M.K. Tod, Washington Independent Review of Books

Weaving together diary entries, poems, letters (both opened and unopened) and song, Ida Jessen’s A Change of Time, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, is a stirring reflection on death and mourning, loneliness, and female identity in a changing 20th century Denmark.
Asymptote Journal

A Change of Time is a book of masterful restraint, and this restraint is a kind of tenderness. It is a book that understands that desire permeates everything - nothing human can be cleansed of it; and that sometimes love clings most inextricably to the smallest places - misjudgment, invisibility, loneliness. It is a book that deepens and dignifies both our innocence and our fallibility.
Anne Michaels

Similar to her previous novels, Ida Jessen’s sympathy once again clearly lies with those people who are unable put words to all the feelings that keep turning in their heads, and they accept being bound to others in a way they themselves don’t understand. Those who are ‘helplessly human’, as it’s called at the end of A Change of Time. This type of story has gradually become a signature of her writing. For Ida Jessen, being human is being unable to truly see oneself, or in particular, the ways that we are connected to others. She is very good at setting up the situation. She can really capture the quiet and unsettled relations between people, presented through a scene or dialogue exchange, making characters seem alive and genuine, without resorting to dramatic tricks.

Tue Andersen Nexø, Information

Jessen’s novel is like a Hammershøi in prose: a haunting, timeless, intimate exploration of loss, rendered by the translator Martin Aitken into elegantly spare English.
The Idle Woman Blog

There is a beautiful balance in the novel, between the quiet ponderings of the woman who has lost her husband, and the reflections of the formerly independent woman who is regaining her identity.
Jo Cahill, Beyond the Lamp Post

Ida Jessen strikes out into new territory with A Change of Time. Mrs. Bagge is a strong and rational woman, with an appetite for everything the world has to offer. Subtle and beautiful prose.
Nordjyske Stiftstidende

An utterly well-written novel about the gradual reawakening of an older woman, which elegantly parallels the dry, blooming heath landscapes.
Alt for Damerne

A beautiful, quiet, and reflective novel.
Radhika Pandit, Radhika's Reading Retreat

Spare, yet beautiful, prose superbly translated... A Change of Time satisfies on many levels — prose, inner dialogue, the depiction of time and place
M.K. Tod, Washington Independent Review of Books

The book feels like a poetry. The author beautifully narrated the pain of the protagonist.
Nightingale, The Clipped Nightingale