As much as I have absolutely fallen in love with “Childhood”, Tove Ditlevsen’s first part of her autobiographical trilogy, “Youth” simply didn’t manage to measure up to its standards. The second part of her memoir circles around the author’s teenager into early adulthood years, which are narrated in a much less introspective and reflected kind of way. Everything poetic and lyrical about her style is completely gone and you feel like reading straight-forward diary entries. While you get to know what happened during that period of time, you don’t necessarily get to dive deeper into the narrator’s emotional world.
The reason behind my 3/5 ★ rating are probably the 5/5 ★ given to “Childhood”. You carry over the positive memories of that reading experience and you keep the curiosity about what the third part, “Dependency”, will be like. Without the books before and after, my rating would surely have been lower, since I didn’t end up particularly liking “Youth”. It didn’t have a captivating air to it , I often found myself not really caring about how the story would continue and I had to push my way through it.
The book definitely focuses more on the outer, rather than the inner world of young Tove. It’s much more political with talk about worker’s unions, Hitler and all the different political parties in Denmark. It represents a noticeable change of perspective: From a magical, naive and innocent childish gaze onto the world, into the one of someone who is transitioning into adulthood, though not yep having a full grasp on life’s surroundings.
I felt myself transported into a more heavy & depressive mood during the reading experience, so that I was missing the lightness & airiness that “Childhood” had to it. You are confronted with the reality of some of the worst sides about being a woman in society, being pushed towards a seemingly only legitimate goal that is made up of getting engaged, married, having children and building a family.
“[…] She [Tove’s mother] says sharply that it’s totally different with a boy. There’s no rush, and a man can always get married, but a girl has to be supported and she always has to think of that.” (p. 34)
By reading “Youth” you will get to know the story behind how the author got to the first publications of her work, her first literary success and the stepping stones into her career as a writer. You’ll get an insight into how she met her future husband but besides that, there was little appeal or added value about it to me. Staying curious about whether the third and final part will be more similar to the fantastic way this memoir has started!
Edition: ISBN 978-0-241-40555-0
Penguin Classics, 2019