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Patient Number 7 by Kurt Palka

Patient Number 7 (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Kurt Palka

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394292,072 (3.5)8
Title:Patient Number 7
Authors:Kurt Palka
Info:McClelland & Stewart (2012), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Austria, WW11, fiction, Canadian author, Nazi Party, Vienna, historical fiction

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Clara by Kurt Palka (2012)



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Showing 4 of 4
This was a different point of view about WWII. Clara and Albert are from Vienna. Something happens and he is removed from the military in Austria and pretty much black balled. The only job he can get is a commission with the German army. This is before Hitler really ramped it up. It was interesting reading about the young people trying to decide if being a communist is better or being a Nazi. As Albert progresses in Hitler's army, Clara struggles with her opposition to the Nazi's and supporting her husband and raising her daughters. This book mainly covers Clara from the 1930's to the 1940's. It does jump to when she is old, which isn't identified and totally confused me as it wasn't that clear when the switch happens in most places. There probably could have been more character building of all the main characters and maybe it should have concentrated on a few years instead of trying to put so much in it. But it was an enjoyable read and I liked this view of WWII as I have now read many different views. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 10, 2016 |
This was a unique POV for a WWII historical fiction: that of the average German who was only trying to survive WWII with their humanity intact. I liked how the author shows us a woman whose husband’s family is caught up in the fervor of the rising Nazis only to be disabused by the darker aspects.

Clara gives us a human face to the regular Germans whose lives were swept up by the Nazis and transformed into a thing they hardly recognize. She’s studying in university and looking forward to a fulfilling relationship with the man she loves. Circumstances change and now she’s the wife of a military officer and finding trouble trying to get her career on track because she’s female. The author takes us on a powerful journey as this woman tries to navigate an increasingly dangerous world and do so with her soul intact.

I liked how the author showed us the subtle ways the everyday German was able to help in their own small way. Yet, we’re also shown how many others jumped into the whole Nazi craze feet first and with enthusiasm. Gradually, one gets to a point where even a whisper or offhand comment could cause you to “disappear” overnight. The increasing darkness of Nazi controlled Austria and Germany makes Clara’s light shine all the brighter.

However, this novel has a very jarring aspect that makes it a hard read. There’s a clear lack of divide between time jumps. The novel alternately jumps from modern Austria to the WWII era with absolutely no distinction. One minute you’re reading about survival attempts from falling bombs and loved ones marching off to war and then we’re reading about satellites and characters as doctors who just three pages ago were toddlers. No where do we get indications that a time shift as occurred other than the actual narrative. That throws the reader out of the story more than once.

This is a book with powerful characters and a look into a POV for WWII that is often overlooked, both in literature and the body of non-fictional work from the era. For that alone, I think I’d recommend it to readers of WWII era fiction. Yet that lack of time jump indicators is a heart-breaker for me. It destroys what could have been a truly superb novel by throwing its readers out of the story time and again. ( )
1 vote Sarah_Gruwell | Jan 13, 2016 |
Goodreads - first reads winner

Although fiction, Clara was inspired by documented and recorded events. The story begins in the 1930's as Vienna is anticipating World War ll.

Clara Herzog was a student at Vienna University in 1931. Clara's ambition was to be a writer and a teacher and perhaps a literary translator - a portable career that would allow her to have a family. It was during this time that she met Albert Leonhardt. Clara's entire family disapproved of Albert from the beginning. Her father, whose love for Clara was the purest certainty in her life, disliked Albert. Her brother, Peter, encouraged her to drop Albert and concentrate on her studies and get a good education. He told her she would regret being involved with Albert. But Clara insisted that Albert was a good man and that she loved him.

Albert's military career in Austria was in ruins and he was at a low point in his life. Days were different now than what they'd been in early Vienna. He was dismissed from the Austrian cavalry and eventually trains horses. Albert and Clara planned to marry when she got her doctorate and had her own career. Her parents did not take the engagement well - and the story unfolds.

Cecilia, definitely my favorite character, was an admirable woman who displayed strength and courage. Cecilia was Albert's mother, and because of circumstances that unfold, she becomes the main breadwinner of the family. Her apartment in Vienna was always filled with music - she coached singers. Cecilia added a lot to the storyline - a very strong character.

Clara and Albert have two daughters. Willa - never married and a bit on the wild side, like her father. Emma - the youngest daughter, was rather gentle and the studious one. I never felt connected to either of these characters.

There were many interesting historical details included in the storyline, and some achingly sad moments - the horrible realization of what happened at that time. For the most part the characters were likable and were struggling to cope with the difficult realities of grief and wartime. My quibble with the book was that the storyline moved too slowly and it diminished my enjoyment. The descriptive writing was beautiful, but it certainly slowed me down. My rating - 3 stars. ( )
  wrbinpa | Jan 20, 2014 |
Patient Number 7 is a fascinating glimpse into Austria, pre, post and during World War 11. Author Kurt Palka was born and educated in Austria, and relied on memoirs, personal interviews,letters and his own family history to write this compelling work of fiction. The story was all the more interesting, knowing it was largely based on reality.

The story is told from Clara Herzog's perspective. She is a young, aristocratic woman , attending the University of Vienna in the early 1930's. She is an involved and bright young student, exposed to great thinkers, such a Freud, and and philosopher's Hiedigger and Wigggenstein. It is also a time of political unrest and Clara attends political speeches on National Socialism ( the Nazi's ), Capitalism , Zionism, Existentialism - in her words " Fascinating doors that lured you in and then snapped back shut behind you , and there could never be going back, ever." p.17

Despite her parent's cautions, young Clara falls in love with Albert, a young Austrian Calvary member. When Albert's younger brother, Theodor, is killed because he supported the Nazi's, Albert joins the Panzers. He does this in part to honour his younger brother's beliefs and partially because he is compelled to do so by outside forces.

Clara ends up living on a Nazi base camp, mainly on her own, with her young children, Willa and Emma. Neither Clara nor her husband Albert fully support the Nazi's, and Clara remains good friends with those who are anti -Nazi. Many horrors ensue, but Clara draws upon her own strength to endure. Clara even risks her life as does her husband in acts of heroism .

Truly an enlightening read, as we see the other side of WW 11. We are also witness to the the rather inhumane process of De-Nazification as per the Allied Forces. A thought -provoking and sympathetic look into "the other side" of WW11 - and very human too.

4.5 stars. ( )
3 vote vancouverdeb | Apr 28, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
IN much the same way as Carol Shields did for Daisy Goodwill Flett in The Stone Diaries, Kurt Palka gives dignity to a life lived in his creation of Clara Herzog, an aristocratic Austrian who falls in love just as her country is swirled into the vortex of events culminating in the Second World War.

Told from Clara's perspective, this understated and compassionate historical novel is based on years of interviews as well as family documents....rom there the story gathers unstoppable momentum. As for the title, its meaning won't become clear until almost the last page.

Patient Number 7 deals with some of the big themes in literature. But its lasting impression is that of a woman whose life mattered.
Patient Number 7is a compelling story about World War II told from a uniquely Austrian point of view. It provides a discerning look at the Viennese and how they coped during the volatile periods during the 1930s, ’40s — and post-war years.

Canadian author Kurt Palka, who grew up in Austria, has over the years collected stories from people....Palka’s book contains wisdom and elegance. He is a literary tour guide taking us into a post-Habsburg culture we could not access on our own. Clara, despite her dazzling intellectualism, is really an Everywoman who has to figure out how to endure life’s vicissitudes while searching for elements of joy. We are with her all the way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0771071329, Paperback)

A sweeping tale of love and friendship, for readers of Suite Francaise, The Reader, and The Imposter Bride.
     Clara Herzog is a privileged, intelligent, and thoughtful young woman whose world is changed forever when 1930s Vienna is swept up by the dark prelude of the Second World War. The cavalry officer she married in spite of her family's objections is soon called away to the thick of the conflict, and it falls to Clara, as to so many mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts through the centuries, to stay at home to provide and protect.
     Through the war, its aftermath, and into the present, Clara must make choices and take risks that are as heroic and life-altering as any that men make in battle. She is an unforgettable character, and this is an unforgettable novel about family bonds and women's deep friendships, about courage and the love that can endure even in unimaginable times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:50 -0400)

A story of love between an aristocratic young woman and the cavalry officer she marries, set in Austria during the tumultous days before, during, and after World War II.

(summary from another edition)

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