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Member Marilyn Hansen displays copy of "So Long, Marianne."

This month’s book club meeting was hosted by me, Shelia Huffman.  Part of hosting the meeting is selecting the book for the month.  Being a huge Leonard Cohen fan, I chose “So Long, Marianne: A Love Story” by Kari Hesthamar. 

Marianne Ihlen was 23 years old when she left her home in Oslo, Norway to live on the Greek island of Hydra with her lover, Axel Jennings. Hydra was a town marked by musicians, poets, writers and a budding youth rebellion in the 1950’s.  

Marianne and Axel set up housekeeping, got married and had a son while living on the island. After a short time, Axel left Hydra to pursue another woman, leaving Marianne alone to fend for herself and the newborn baby. 

One day Marianne was in the village shop waiting to pick up bottled water and milk when “a dark man, standing in the doorway with the sun behind him, approached her.  ‘Would you like to join us, we’re sitting outside?’” he asked. 

That day was the beginning of the love affair between Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen. 

In a published interview with Marianne she remembered being a little girl in Oslo and her grandmother saying, “You are going to meet a man who speaks with a tongue of gold.” 

Marianne recalled her grandmother’s prophecy and said “When I sort of think of the choice of men later, well it has been... I would say... the most golden tongue of them all has without a doubt been Leonard Cohen.” 

Leonard and Marianne lived a Bohemian lifestyle on the Greek Island. 

As Leonard put it, “I came to Hydra and I rented a house for $14.00 a month, I met a girl and I stayed for eight or ten years.” 

Leonard wrote and Marianne kept house. They swam, sunned on the beach, read poetry and gathered with friends in Hydra Town. Leonard told Marianne that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

They drove together to Marianne’s home in Oslo and she and little Axel joined Leonard in Montreal for a year before returning to Hydra. 

“But then the other women entered our life,” Marianne said.  

Eventually Marianne became the muse for one of Leonard’s biggest hits, a song with the same title as the book, “So Long, Marianne.” 

The Book Trotters enjoyed Greek salad, dolmades, olives, pita and Baklava while they discussed whether it was courage or imprudence that allowed someone to live such an unconventional lifestyle at the very dawning of the hippie movement and the sexual revolution. 

Join the Book Trotters next month on BubbleLife as they discuss the first of the summer reads.

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