Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
A Journey Through Life is the autobiography of Claus Hede Nielsen. Nielsen grew up in Denmark. His grandfather sold bicycles and saddles, produced in his own factory. Nielsen’s father, Ove, was an innovator. In the 1930s, Ove believed radio and gramophones were the future. His success in this venture later led him to believe TV would be the future, and his brand, Arena, became the biggest in Denmark. After sourcing cathode ray tubes from RCA in the US, Ove also gained exclusive rights to RCA records in Denmark, which later featured artists such as Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton. An innovator like his father, Nielsen was always looking for the next business opportunity to market in Denmark. Two examples of this were car radios and the world’s first cordless phone. After divorcing his first love, Brandy, Nielsen later married a TV star, Sally Thomsett, from the sit-com ‘Man About the House.’ He founded his own record company, Spectra Records, met many famous people, and lived a rich and interesting life.
Nielsen’s Foreword caught my attention immediately: ‘I have now reached a time in my life where my Pen is stronger than my Penis…’ Clearly, the author had a cheeky sense of humour. His dry wit also featured some self-aggrandising, such as: ‘I started life by choosing my parents well.’ His tale contained a few amusing anecdotes, such as the time he ‘flew to America to secure a European distribution deal for the best fire precaution product, only to find on arrival, that the factory had just burned down.’ Overall, I found his life interesting and full of adventure. His incredible past included lucrative business ventures, famous people, mansions, fast cars, beautiful women – even a pet lioness. There were plenty of colour photographs of people and places that featured in his life, plus brochures from his businesses, and album covers for bands signed to Spectra Records, Nielsen’s record company. These all added an extra element of reality to his story.
Unfortunately, Nielsen badly needs an editor. I found ten errors by page 4, halfway through the Foreword. The manuscript featured missing punctuation, spelling errors, homophone errors, unnecessary spaces, incorrect capitalisation, and poorly formatted paragraphs. Having grown up in Denmark, it was understandable that his written English was a bit off the mark: ‘The next day we decided to get away from the coast and up in the mountings.’ Clearly, he meant ‘mountains;’ this was typical of the homophone errors in the book, which included ‘through’ for ‘threw,’ ‘cups’ for ‘cubs,’ ‘duck’ for ‘dug,’ and many more. There were mid-paragraph breaks in the middle of sentences, with the first word on the next line capitalised for no reason. The text was also not justified correctly; some lines used only half of the page width before a line break. Nielsen also often used ‘…’ to break sentences into fragments, when full sentences would have flowed better.
The book also backtracked at times. The main story arc was chronological, but there were sections within it that jumped back and forth in time. The writing seemed a bit rambling at times, following Nielsen’s stream of consciousness too much. This approach was fine for the author, who had lived the story he was telling, but made it a lot harder for me to follow. Between Nielsen’s unedited English and his storytelling style, I got a bit lost at times – sometimes very lost. Like many creative people, he had a lot of great ideas, but many didn’t pan out over time. His life was full of amazing adventures but lacked stability, and I got the sense that he employed insufficient planning and research in implementing some of his ideas. This book was a perfect example: an entertaining rollercoaster of a story submitted unedited, desperately needing a professional approach to give it much-needed structure.
Given that I found Nielsen’s life so interesting, I rate A Journey Through Life 2 out of 4 stars, with two stars subtracted for its rambling style and lack of editing. This is a great story of an amazing man’s life; however, I would struggle to recommend it to anyone at the moment. With professional editing, I think those interested in autobiographies would enjoy this book. It does contain some coarse language, but nothing excessive. At just 43 pages long, however, I feel it is also far too short to do justice to a life filled with creativity and excitement. I honestly believe Nielsen’s best course of action would be to use a ghostwriter to tell his story in a more structured and detailed way. Failing that, a professional editor is a must.