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Summary and book reviews of The Chosen Ones by Steve Sem-Sandberg

The Chosen Ones

A Novel

by Steve Sem-Sandberg

The Chosen Ones by Steve Sem-Sandberg X
The Chosen Ones by Steve Sem-Sandberg
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2017, 576 pages

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Book Summary

Passionately serious, meticulously researched, and deeply profound, this extraordinary and dramatic novel bears witness to oppression and injustice, and offers invaluable and necessary insight into an intolerable chapter in Austria's past.

The Am Spiegelgrund clinic, in glittering Vienna, masqueraded as a well-intentioned reform school for wayward boys and girls and a home for chronically ill children. The reality, however, was very different: in the wake of Germany's annexation of Austria on the eve of World War II, its doctors, nurses, and teachers created a monstrous parody of the institution's benign-sounding brief. The Nazi regime's euthanasia program would come to determine the fate of many of the clinic's inhabitants.

Through the eyes of a child inmate, Adrian Ziegler, and a nurse, Anna Katschenka, Steve Sem-Sandberg, the author of the award-winning The Emperor of Lies, explores the very meaning of survival. An absorbing, emotionally overwhelming novel, rich in incident and character, The Chosen Ones is obliquely illuminated by the author's sharp sense of the absurd.

I

Fostered Children

The Institution They brought him to Spiegelgrund for the first time in January 1941, on a cold, clear winter's morning when the pale light closest to the ground shimmered with frost. Near the top of the mountain that rose behind the pavilions, Adrian Ziegler remembers seeing the institution's church, its dome green with verdigris against a blue sky, an unreal blue like that of postcards or colour-printed posters. The car stopped just inside the hospital gate, in front of the buildings that housed the directorate and the administration. A nurse came to escort them, first to meet the elderly director, a grave, pale gentleman in a dark suit, who signed the documents, and then to a pavilion to the left of the main entrance, where a doctor was waiting to examine him. Another nurse was there as well and she shouted at him to undress at once and step onto the scales. Adrian would claim that he had no idea who the doctor was until much later. It was only then,...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A memorable meditation on the human capacity to do ill--and to endure.

Publishers Weekly
Starred and Boxed Review. With a gift for finding humanity in even the darkest of stories, Sem-Sandberg has written an indelible, moving novel.

Booklist
Starred Review. In this intensively researched historical novel, readers follow Sem-Sandberg (and his adept translator) into a nightmarish Nazi inversion of medicine ... A harrowing chronicle.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Gorgeous prose and stark imagery, along with Sem-Sandberg's penchant for the absurd and surreal, provide an unsettling and vivid glimpse into one of the darkest chapters of human history.

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