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Patient Number 7 [Hardcover]

Kurt Palka
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 2012
Inspired by a true story and based on a wealth of family documents, this elegant and compelling novel chronicles the lives of two families from the 1930s through the coming of the Nazis and World War II, and the long, difficult post-War period to the present. A must-read for fans of Irene Nemirovsky, Hans Fallada, and Bernhard Schlink's The Reader.
This vividly realized, masterfully executed novel is a window into a little-explored corner of history. Patient Number 7 is a story of love between an aristocratic young woman and the cavalry officer -- later Panzer officer in the German army -- she marries; between friends who help each other through the Nazi takeover of Austria, the war, and what was sometimes worse, the "liberation"; between a mother and her two very different daughters. But it is also the story of a nation's darkest days, and its slow recovery during one of the most convulsive, violent periods of human history. Beautifully written, haunting, and ultimately redemptive, it is a work of great skill and great compassion.

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Finalist for the Hammett Prize 2012
“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. . . . 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 the elements of joy. We are with her all the way.”
The Toronto Star

“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. . . . [An] understated and compassionate historical novel. . . . it provokes questions about what we would have done if we had lived during the Third Reich. . . . Patient Number 7 deals with some of the big themes in literature. But its lasting impression is that of a woman whose life mattered.”
Winnipeg Free Press

About the Author

KURT PALKA was born and educated in Austria. He began his working life in Africa where he wrote for African Mirror and made wildlife films in Kenya and Tanzania. After moving to Canada he worked on international stories for CTV and GLOBALTV, wrote for American and Canadian publications such as the Chronicle Herald and the Globe and Mail, and worked as a Senior Producer for the CBC. Patient Number 7 is his fifth novel.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Historical Fiction based on Fact May 6 2012
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.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be incredibly slow-moving, dull, and the chemistry between Clara and her boyfriend-then fiancee-then husband was non-existent. Why exactly does she love him? I read three quarters of this book and had to stop. I couldn't take it anymore. It sounds like all the good stuff happens in the last quarter but I just couldn't bother reading the whole thing. The characters failed to engage me. I just couldn't care about them. I felt very detached from Clara and Albert and the plot-line.
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3.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful and personal view of pre-war Austria Nov. 5 2012
By Bever
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Told from the personal point of view of a young woman living in Austria, Patient No. 7 offers revealing insights of how the political ideals of National Socialism drew people in, then held the country captive to the Nazi machine. While personal, the story is told from a factual & intellectual point of view rather than emotional - a fine and appropriate handling of a topic that is already charged with emotion. The book is well-written, and I felt gradually drawn into this woman's life and the those of her family and friends.
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By Great Historicals TOP 500 REVIEWER
Patient Number 7 gives reader a unique glimpse into how World War II impacted Austria. Based on family documents, author Kurt Palka has drilled down into everyday life to demonstrate how all lives were affected by the Nazi Third Reich.

The main character is Clara Herzog, a young woman from a well-to-do family who attends university in Austria. As a philosophy student, she is the student of Sigmund Freud and other notable famous mentors. Against her family's urgings, she falls in love and marries a cavalry officer who soon joins the Panzers in the German army. Left alone, she struggles to raise their two daughters while war rages around them. She faces numerous conflicts ranging from losing her position at the university to Third Reich party members to being raped by a Nazi officer.

Patient Number 7 is about one woman's endurance and the choices she is forced to make for herself and her family. What I found most fascinating was how Nazis slowly infiltrated all businesses, all levels of government, and society in general creating a wave of fear and slowly taking over all aspects of Austrian life. This is a unique, compelling, multi-layered novel about an unforgettable woman!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clara: a Horrifying Story About Horrifying Times March 19 2014
By E. Burian-Mohr - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I chose to read Kurt Palka's "Clara" because my parents had lived in Vienna at the same time as Clara.

The story takes us from the rumblings before World War II until Clara's death many years later. It is a fascinating and horrifying, look at history. Clara, unlike my parents, was a gentile, and from a somewhat privileged upbringing. Like my parents, she was a passionate student at the book's beginning, studying at the university with such greats as Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger. I wondered what life was life for one opted to stay in Vienna, rather than someone forced to flee their city.

Despite her parents' objections and fears, Clara falls madly in love with an officer in the army with a cavalry officer who joins the Panzers in the German army and is promptly shipped out to perform unspeakable deeds.

Not so slowly, the feel of intellectual, politically passionate, artistic Vienna blends into oppression as the Nazis infiltrate, take over, dominate, destroy, and exterminate. Clara is left alone to raise her two daughters and survive. She does so with the help of friends and family but life as they knew it is forever obliterated. Hitler's "final solution" is not really a focus in the book, but the privation and degradation at the hands of the Nazis is.

Clara is an interesting character in horrific times. She survives. She helps others survive, She sees others brutally murdered and abused. She remains true to her determination to use her mind, and writes of what she sees.

But what was clearest to me was how many varieties of horrible took place in those years. Man's inhumanity to his fellow creatures is woefully evident. And while I felt privileged to see what my parents' world was, it made me weep.

If you ever need a reminder of the cruelty of the war, read "Clara."
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat confusing Feb. 7 2014
By happy reader - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I found "Clara" somewhat confusing. Sometimes from one paragraph to another the whole scene and characters in that scene would change without warning. Many times I thought I'd skipped some pages and went back to review hoping to get an idea of what was going on. As for Clara......I know thousands of brave women like her suffered horrors during those WWII years. I had no idea so many thousands of Germans and of Allies were killed. For that reason, knowing that perhaps the truth was even more horrific, it's hard to read on.
Another problem I found was that sometimes I would suddenly realize that someone was speaking or that the character had suddenly changed without warning.
To sum up.....this is a hard book to read.......not only because of the "skipping" around but mainly and, most importantly, the terrible events of those war years. The hardest part is knowing that humans could be so cruel and heartless..
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good choice for a different perspective Feb. 18 2014
By T. K. Paul - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I thoroughly enjoy novels set in the WWI and WWII time periods. Reading “Clara” was a different experience for me because the story is not told from a combatant’s point of view or a victim’s point of view. Clara, the main character, is a young woman who wanted to have more than just a husband and family. Her interest in philosophy and educational background lent a very interesting perspective to this book. I liked her, but found myself taken aback by some of her reactions (or should I say, non-reactions) to major life events. Clara, as well as her family members, all appeared to have been rather naïve about the events occurring around them, but that would not have been unusual given their circumstances. They, probably not unlike most Austrians at the time, likely could have been considered anti-Nazi but could not easily avoid making the choice to align themselves with the movement.

All in all, a good book with quite a bit of unique historical perspective.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit slow moving March 25 2014
By WRB - Published on
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult novel March 21 2014
By Neal C. Reynolds - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is very difficult as a novel due to both shifting perspectivews which are inclined to confuse and to the horrific depictions of the WWII atrocities. There is a positive uniqueness here and that is the characters are mostly Christian and therefore, the point of view is certainly different than that in most WWII novels. There are strengths here, but while not an awful book, it isn't what it could have been.
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