Rumer Godden’s Hans Christian Andersen: A Great Life in Brief encompasses its subject’s life from his birth in 1805 into very lowly circumstances to his death in 1875 as a highly acclaimed writer. Godden concentrates on the first thirty years of Andersen’s life, depicting in vivid detail Andersen’s childhood in Odense, Denmark. Andersen’s father was a moody cobbler who lamented his lowly social status, and his mother was a religious, superstitious woman who, after the death of her husband in 1816, had to provide for the household by taking in washing. His parents, in spite of their poverty, were protective of the boy and allowed him a life in which he could give free rein to his remarkable imagination, which led him to believe—and announce—that he would gain fame as an artist.
At the age of fourteen, Andersen left for the capital of Copenhagen, where he stubbornly attempted to become an actor or singer at the prestigious Royal Theater. Against all odds, he was accepted as an apprentice, only later to be informed that he had no talent. During that time, he had little money and experienced much deprivation.
Typically, Andersen did not give up but resolutely wrote and submitted plays to the Royal Theater. Even though they were justly rejected, some influential people who had taken note of his promising, if untrained, poetic gifts managed to secure him a stipend. This money would enable him to gain the formal education that was necessary...
(The entire section is 507 words.)