This review is an independent review of Hygge; The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg. All views are my own and I bought the book myself.
The blurb on the back reads; “One little word is the secret reminder of what really matters in life: Hygge.”
Marie Tourell Søderberg is a Danish actress who has appeared in quite a lot of Danish films and TV but will be best known in the UK for her role in 1864. She’s a real Copenhagen girl, born there, and has written a guide to how to hygge which she travelled up and down the length of Denmark to research. I know very little about the author, but I do know about the book. It’s one of the many hygge books out this year, and sits very nicely on a book shelf alongside Meik Wiking and Louisa Thomsen Brits.
The book is a beautiful piece of art work in itself; the cover is a smooth but suede-ish rather than glossy cover, with an eye-catching blue decorated with gold spots. It glistens in the sunlight, and calls out to be held. I have been known to walk through book shops just to stroke book covers, and this one is eminently strokeable. Paper quality is excellent, heavy and thick white paper with liberal illustrations throughout. The photos look like Marie has raided her Flickr account to find her favourite shots, they are natural and not staged. Am I talking too much about externals here? No, not really, and I’ll tell you why.
For books about hygge and subjects like hygge the externals are as much a part of the experience as the content. Cheap paperbacks won’t give you the smoothness or weight of this hardback, and the subtle cover pulls you to touch, and feel and open and see….. It’s a delight for the eyes, the hands… I haven’t smelled it, but I assume it doesn’t smell bad and, if it did, a quick spray with room freshener would put that right as well. It goes with having a cup of tea and a slither of cake as a sign of an indulgent but not too indulgent treat for your senses. It would be a good Saturday morning book, the sort you lazily read while eating avocado toast in your jim-jams on the bed.
But nobody (except perhaps me) would buy a book for the cover, so on to the internals.
Marie’s book is a very personal exploration of hygge. She describes herself as a hygge ‘aficionado’ and reading this book you get the feeling that making sure life has its hyggelig moments is one of the things she does best. She quotes friends and family, she uses personal reminiscences to illustrate her points, and the whole thing is very home-based, friend-based, friendly.
There are 9 basic chapters; Where does Hygge Come From? tells you a potted history of the word and the concept, but the other chapters have a much more practical approach. Togetherness, Inviting Hygge to the Table, How to Bring Hygge into Your Home, Hygge Through the Year and The Potential in Hygge all use Marie’s friends and colleagues to explore how food, interior design, seasonality and crafts can help to make hygge a part of your life.
I really enjoyed the chapter on interior design where Mika Stensgaard who does the set design for The Legacy, talked about how she used hygge and the concept of hygge in building her sets, about how what we have speaks volumes about who we are. As she writes, “I work on the assumption that hygge thrives best in spaces that invite you in without making you feel that you need to behave in a certain way when there.”
Marie recognises that hygge has its critics from both the left and the right of politics but she sees great potential in it as a time “when we put aside our differences and cooperate. Hygge is where we meet each other as fellow human beings rather than as opposites, and this is where we recognise that we are all in the same boat. Hygge, therefore, is a kind of anti-competitiveness.”
The book is available from Amazon and all good retailers.If you use the link at the top of the post, I will receive a little money off Amazon as I am an Amazon Affiliate. Never had a penny off them yet, though.