Christian Jungersen's The Exception - Sweden

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Sweden - Undantaget


WOW! I haven't read anything as thrilling as this award winning Danish bestseller since THE DA VINCI CODE... This is a psychological thriller with multiple layers.



The Exception was published in the Spring of 2006 by Albert Bonniers Förlag. It enjoyed months on the bestseller list and was among the five novels shortlisted by Svenska Deckarakademin for the prize as Best Foreign Crime/Thriller Novel.


I read this book straight through in 24 hours. I forced myself to go to bed but I was so curious how it would end that I had to get up and read the end.


Christian Jungersen's psychological thriller makes you think about who you are, your own behavior at your workplace – yes, of the biggest questions in life. This is huge, and the novel easily deserves every prize it has won in Denmark.




With relentless realism Jungersen depicts the day-to-day cruelty that can make desks into battle lines and crush a person without anyone taking much notice... The author effectively lets the perspective – and the sympathies – shift among the four colleagues. Four individuals mean four different realities; the reader becomes more and more unsure of what actually happened and is kept on tenterhooks until the very last page. It is technically brilliant, but also psychologically convincing. Jungersen has a sense for detail – expressions, gestures, tone of voice – and does not shrink from complications. The characters are allowed to be as complex and contradictory as people normally are.
    With razor-sharp precision Jungersen dissects human nature, and the result is a study in the psychology of evil, from genocidal massacres to freeze-outs in the office lunchroom. The focus continually shifts between theory and practice, the big world and the small, and disturbing questions are raised. Do the same mechanisms lie behind harassment as behind genocide? Could anyone become a murderer? Are we driven by nothing more than selfishness and self-preservation?
    The Exception is simultaneously a truly suspenseful and morally challenging novel – not to mention shocking. It makes you think – but it also makes you take a look over your shoulder. Nothing is safe as far as the eye can see.
Helsingborgs Dagblad


This is an unbearably suspenseful pyschological thriller that takes place in Copenhagen at a center for the documentation of genocide... Murder and kidnapping make for an incredibly fascinating and exciting story. As a woman I was stunned to see how a man could use psychological drama to describe how a woman thinks and feels. This book is highly recommended.
Go kväll / Swedish Television


Yes, I know – it’s risky to claim that a novel will become a classic. Because who am I to know what the literary experts of the future will insist is a must-read? And yet, Christian Jungersen has written a novel which is among the best and most powerful I have read in many years. Whether it becomes a classic or not, it’s a staggering reading experience.
    First of all, The Exception is a novel with scope – its very length might seem intimidating. But what’s 600 pages when story and language achieves this quality level?
    Second, the novel is an incredibly skillful depiction of harassment in a small office. An office where the employees are supposed to know everything about human evil and what makes us humans do inconceivable things to one another.
    Christian Jungersen’s storytelling skill is brilliant: He shifts perspective by letting each of the four women takes turns as the protagonist. It’s not a first-person narrative, but the reader continually has the story illuminated from multiple points of view. What for Malene is a polite conversational tone sounds reproachful to Anne-Lise’s ears; what for Iben is simple and obvious is for Camilla almost insurmountable.
    This gives the story a dynamism and a tension that captivated me completely. I can’t remember the last time I unintermittingly kept thinking about a novel the way I did while I was reading The Exception.
    It’s as exciting as a thriller without actually being one. There are minor elements of both the mystery and the thriller genre, but what I will remember most from The Exception is the fantastic portraits of four women and an incredibly good description of the mechanisms of harassment. And the question remains: Is day-to-day harassment only one step on the path leading to genocide? And if so: Can anyone at all in a given scenario become a harasser and, at the extreme end of the scale, end up sympathizing or participating in genocide?
    Christian Jungersen gives no direct answer, but he leads the reader to some serious thinking.
    So: Run right over to the bookstore or the library. The Exception deserves to be a bestseller.
Gefle Dagblad


An intricate network of sympathies, antipathies, loyalties, and dependences is created among the women in the novel The Exception... Jungersen has an exceptionally good eye for detail and for the nuances of calculation and envy that mark even the most loyally devoted best-friend relationship. This is an aspect that particularly distinguishes the novel: it illuminates the complexity that lies behind our actions, how we at any given time are subjugated conflicting interests and impulses.
    Making use of a traditional narrative style, Jungersen succeeds in effectively puncturing all more or less ideologically tinged explanations for why society is organized a certain way, why people act a certain way, etc. Doing this within the framework of an suspenseful thriller is not something most writers could accomplish. It’s no surprise that Christian Jungersen has had such well-deserved success in his own country.
Svenska Dagbladet


The Exception is an important book about a serious issue. It is a book that should be widely read. Those of you who are not fans of suspense novels or thrillers, don’t let the genre hold you back! This is a multi-layered book that poses many relevant questions – no fixed answers are presented, but there is much to think about.
    Among a group of politically involved women a case of harassment develops that is sometimes so horrible that the narrative is almost painful to read. With a devilishly premeditated finesse, Anne-Lise is ousted from the group, affecting her whole life and those around her in a macabre way. How things get to this point – and it could happen to anyone – and how all attempts to get out of the swamp of harassment just make the situation worse, is so well described that the reader often shares the characters’ discomfort.
    Jungersen, who was named writer of the year in Denmark in 2004 for this novel, has produced a sinister story with a suspenseful, violent dénouement and an unexpected ending.


With a creeping, horrid feeling that grows more and more claustrophobic, Christian Jungersen skillfully depicts the way an individual can mirror great events; how the same mechanisms of oppression can work in small groups as well as in the large and terrible contexts reported in the newspapers and television from all over the world. The mechanisms that lead people to be willing to act as bloody executioners are also found in our midst in daily life. What distinguishes us from the executioners is per-haps only the historical circumstances, the fact that reality is pushed to the extreme. But Christian Jungersen supplies no cut-and-dried or easy answers. He studiously avoids clichés. The question permeating the entire novel The Exception is this: Are people good or evil in their innermost nature? The question he chisels out at last is a question directed at the reader: What do you see inside yourself? What would you have done?
    ... This is a very convincing psychological novel. It conveys a deep sense of un-easiness and poses a number of extremely crucial and important questions.
Sundsvalls Tidning


Sweden - Undantaget

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