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Det syvende barn by Erik Valeur
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Det syvende barn (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Erik Valeur

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1129107,804 (3)12
Member:postergaard
Title:Det syvende barn
Authors:Erik Valeur
Info:[Kbh.] Gyldendals Bogklubber 2011
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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The Seventh Child by Erik Valeur (2011)

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English (4)  Danish (3)  Dutch (2)  All languages (9)
Showing 4 of 4
3.5 stars

If you browse through reviews for this novel, you'll see they run the gamut. I think it's because this is a polarizing book, not popular fiction for the masses. It will appeal to fans of slow, introspective & thoughtful reads. And you'll have to be someone who enjoys a tome you can tuck into. At over 700 pages, this is not a beach book.
Set in Copenhagen, it chronicles the lives of 7 children from their births to middle age. They ended up in an orphanage within days of being born in 1961 & were all adopted except one.
The story begins with a flashback to Sept. 11, 2001. A woman is found dead on the shore of the sound by the orphanage. Police are not sure what to think....accidental death or murder? She has no ID & is surrounded by a weird assortment of objects: a noose, a book, a tree branch & a dead canary. But within hours she's relegated to the back burner as the Twin Towers fall & the world's attention turns to terrorism.
Kongslund has always been an impressive property in an affluent area of the city & was ruled for 60 years by a formidable matron, Magna Ladegaard. In the present day, the orphanage & the city are preparing for a big anniversary party in her honour. It has long been supported by the Danish government & held up as a shining example of family values & all it stands for.
That's why when a mysterious letter begins circulating, alluding to a scandal at Kongslund in 1961, it shakes up not only the staff but the most powerful men in office.
What if not all the babies came from unwed mothers or families in dire circumstances? What if the powerful and/or famous used the orphanage as a dumping ground for pregnancies resulting from illicit or improper affairs?
Magna was known for her strict rules of adoption. The mother never saw the baby & no identifying information was given to the new parents. If the child required medical attention, they got the best to ensure optimal health. But in 1961, one of the 7 babies seemed beyond repair.
They called her Marie. In the subsequent media frenzy, staff described finding the little girl on the doorstep & she became famous as the Kongslund foundling. But Marie's lack of history was the least of her problems. She was severely deformed with misshapen digits, a twisted spine & asymmetrical face. So Magna decided Marie would be her project & adopted her. By 2008, Magna has retired & moved out but Marie never left.
Now in her 40's, Marie is the main protagonist & much of the story is told in her voice, She introduces the reader to each of the characters. The rest of the cast includes the other 6 children, their adoptive families, orphanage staff & 3 men in government: the current (dying) prime minister, the Minister of National Affairs (& next PM) & a sinister former cop who is now head of security for the ministry.
Each character then has a large section in the book detailing their last 40 years. Slowly, we become aware just how intertwined their lives have always been, even if they had no idea. The 7 all crossed paths over the years, unaware they once shared a nursery. Some didn't even know they were adopted until they each received a copy of the letter in 2008. It contained the names of a woman & the child she gave up in 1961. For some reason, this causes a massive but covert investigation by the security chief on behalf of the ministers. But which one of the seven is the child in the letter? All given names were immediately changed once they arrived in Kongslund & original documents destroyed. More importantly, why is the letter stirring up so much fear & urgency?
This is a book that grabbed my attention right away. The main plot line reeks of mystery & secrets and there is a slowly mounting sense of dread from the start. However, I found the middle section bogged down as we are told the history of each person. I understand the need to flesh out the characters so we understand how events shaped them but some editing would have helped move things along & maintain the feeling of suspense. At the end of almost every chapter there is a sentence hinting at something dramatic right around the corner but it lost its' effect after awhile.
But I really wanted to know who the seventh child was & the identity of their parents as this is obviously the crux of the entire plot. After another 200 pages or so, the pace picked up & the last quarter was a page turner as all was revealed with some clever twists & startling revelations.
None of these people are easy to like & almost all have done terrible things. There were also a couple I really detested & I'm happy to say they got what they deserved.There is also a mystical element that flows through the whole book & almost all of the 7 main characters are prone to talking to the dead. It's not clear whether some of the relationships were real or imagined.
This is not a book you want to put down for too long. The large cast & frequent shifts in time frame are difficult to follow at times & you have to pay attention. It's a story that encompasses the themes of childhood, family, politics, xenophobia & hypocrisy. It's incredibly complex & I can't begin to imagine how long it took the author to conceive of all the threads & weave them together.
There are many moments that are sad, poignant & desperate but ultimately, it's about hope & deciding your own fate rather than accepting the hand you you're dealt. ( )
  RowingRabbit | Sep 14, 2014 |
Mystery set in Denmark and involves seven children who were all placed in an orphanage in 1961. ( )
  Kristelh | Apr 28, 2014 |
Too long, needs editing down. ( )
  mamamork | Apr 3, 2014 |
As a reader, I always want to love a book. I certainly don't start a novel with the hopes that it will bore me to tears. But this one nearly did just that.

This story is endless, and not in a good way. There are pages upon pages of nothing happening. Somewhere within it all I'm fairly sure there is a decent plot, though the sheer excess of words left me floundering for some reason to continue this torturous event.

The narration keeps us at a distance, as if we're being told this story by someone who heard someone else telling another person what happened. I never felt connected to the characters. Despite what should have been dramatic material, I didn't feel the emotion.

There are a lot of characters and not a lot of rhyme or reason to the way it's all presented. By the midway point, I thought the weight of the words would crush me into nothingness. I'm sure there is something here to love; I just couldn't find that something. ( )
  Darcia | Mar 10, 2014 |
Showing 4 of 4
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It must remain a secret how I uncovered the new and hitherto unknown information in the case that became known as the Kongslund Affair.
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