The Jade Cat

Written by Anne Born (trans.) Suzanne Brøgger
Review by Nanette Donohue

The Løvin family has survived world-changing events, including two world wars and the persecution of Jews by the Nazis, but the dramas of everyday life—stress, infidelity, marital discord, tension between parents and children—threatens to destroy them. Led by their matriarch, Katze, the family comes together and falls apart at the family home, a well-appointed apartment in Copenhagen. Brøgger follows the Løvins through several generations, and describes a family falling apart in every possible way.

The enjoyment of this novel depends on the reader’s tolerance for unpleasant, unhappy characters, repetition of key phrases, and muddy, experimental narrative. There’s really no plot, just a life cycle, including several characters’ descents into madness, illness, and addiction. While the novel is technically linear, the focus on the characters’ inner lives and motivations—which are often quite ugly—make the story seem suspended in time somehow. The Jade Cat is a difficult novel to read, and the payoff was not worth the effort. While I have no doubts that Brøgger, a well-known author in her native Denmark, deserves to be better-known to English-speaking readers, I don’t think this is the novel that will change that.