the seventh child was one of my kindle first scores from last year, and i finally got around to reading it this month. it is the longest book i’ve read in quite a while – probably since midnight’s children last year – and i will admit that the length was a bit of a road block for me at the beginning. once i got past that, however, things moved along fairly fast.
valeur’s book tells the extraordinary story of seven people – five men and two women – who spent the first year of their lives living and growing together in kongslund, denmark’s most famous orphanage. but they also share a secret. a secret that, once unearthed, would alter the lives of a lot of people and could even bring ruin to the party in power.
through a series of flashbacks and stories narrated by marie, the only one of the seven children not to be adopted and leave kongslund, we learn about those seven lives as well as about those in power who have spent decades covering up their errors and missteps.
valeur, himself a former resident of the real-life kongslund, covers a lot of ground in his book. there are government secrets and cover-ups. there are affairs and illegitimate children. there is conspiracy and murder, both ancient as well as recent. there is backstabbing and menace. it’s a lot. and it becomes a lot to keep straight.
between the seven children – now adults – as well as the myriad of birth and adopted parents, governesses, and officials, there are a lot of characters moving in and out of the periphery. all of them have secrets of some sort, which are revealed over the course of the story. and none of them have more secrets than marie, the one who knows more about everyone else than anyone knows about her.
honestly, i have mixed feelings about the book. overall i liked it, but it was certainly slow going. i really think it could have been edited down a lot, which would have made the story flow a lot better and a lot faster. there was also a lot of repetition and lengthy descriptions of events that could have been cut down. at times it felt as though i were reading in circles. and it was just far too long.
i think it also felt very slow because i guessed a few of the big secrets pretty early on in the book, and it felt like it took a long time to finally reach there in the story. it was frustrating to have a pretty good idea of where things were going to end up but being taken on a roundabout journey to get there.
there were also quite a few similarities to stieg larsson’s millennium trilogy books: the scandinavian setting; the down-on-his-luck journalist looking for that one big story to pull him back from the abyss; the top-secret security firm; the super big mystery that needs to be solved but is being blocked by those who will be ruined by it. it was difficult not to compare it from time-to-time, which i know is unfair but was only natural.
i also have a feeling that there might have been a few things lost in translation. some nuances that are much better captured in danish than in english. i’m sure the translator did a commendable job, but the language barrier is always going to be an issue in these cases.
i guess i feel like this book had a lot of promise and could have been really great, but it felt like valeur lost the thread somewhere and didn’t quite know where to pick it back up. it’s also a polarizing book, one that some people are going to love and others are going to find frustrating, particularly because of its length. even just a quick glance at the reviews on amazon or goodreads is enough to show that.
my goodreads rating: 3.0 / 5 [would probably have been a 2 or 2.5 if i had paid for it].
crossing off on the popsugar reading challenge list: a book with a number in the title.
next up: wreckage by emily bleeker. or possibly palace of illusions by chitra banerjee divakaruni. or possibly something else. i’m having some trouble deciding at the moment.
have you read the seventh child? what did you think?