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The Exception

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,172 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Four women work at the Danish Centre for Genocide Information. When two of them start receiving death threats, they suspect they are being stalked by Mirko Zigic, a Serbian torturer and war criminal. But perhaps he is not the person behind the threats - it could be someone in their very midst.
Unknown Binding, 567 pages
Published June 21st 2007 by Not Avail (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,105)
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im frequently torn, when rating books, between rating based on merit, or rating based on my enjoyment. this is probably a three-star book, merit-wise. and yet i got totally sucked into it and really enjoyed it, despite its flaws. its a very well-paced thriller that requires a certain suspension of disbelief but is not terribly flawed. and my desire to finish reading it has made my thanskgiving feast delayed by three hours, so...
Jason Pettus
(The much longer full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

"Ignoring the small flash of doubt in yourself -- that is what evil is. Nobody thinks of himself as evil, but that deception is part of evil's nature. And you can't lie to yourself all the time. Once in awhile, there's that moment when you question if you are doing the right thing. And that's your only chance to choose what is good, to do the right thing. And the moment lasts maybe f...more
This is a top-notch, meaty psychological thriller that takes you inside a small office dedicated to research into genocide. There, the five office workers simultaneously dig into the very nature of evil as they study the most inhumane acts ever perpetrated, while they quietly destroy each other's lives with office politics and interpersonal bullying. Buried not-so-deep beneath the surface of even the seemingly closest friendships and politest collegiality apparently lurks seething resentments th...more
For me personally, this is a 5 star book, though it is not a book I would recommend to just anyone. Subject matter can at times be harsh.
I would lump this in a Secret History/The Likeness/Natsuo Kirino's Out category. The category of a "normal" or good person doing evil things and how that manifests within them. This was a very slow book to start and patience will win out. There are some very tense parts of the book and at times I felt there were some very Hitchcock like moments. The slow simmer...more
Oct 23, 2010 Meave rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meave by: everyone!
Sometimes, characters in fully formed television worlds watch their own television, which is a device to comment on the events in the television show, and on the television show itself; you know, meta-TV. This book uses articles about genocide as the TV show inside the TV show, to comment on and help explain the actions in the novel, which is set in the fictional Danish Center for Information on Genocide.

The narrative is almost exclusively third-person limited, but it alternates between the empl...more
Jim Coughenour
Aug 15, 2008 Jim Coughenour rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cheerful people
Normally, if a book hasn't engaged me in the first 50 pages, I'll set it aside. Life's too short for bad books. I don't know why, exactly, I made an exception for The Exception. The first 400 of its 500 pages embeds you in the inner life of four pathetic, slightly deranged women who all work in the same office – all of whom are obsessed with the tedious minutiae of their work life. Toward the end the story shifts into an awful parody of a late-night TV police serial, complete with hideous cartoo...more
Jan 27, 2008 Jess rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a good psychological drama
Anytime I try to describe this, it comes off sounding boring or depressing. While it's not a light book, and I wouldn't describe it as a page-turner, either, it was gripping and I could easily read it for an hour or two at a time, only putting it down and turning off the light when my eyes started to hurt. It was, bizarrely, a perfect accompaniment to the library management class I'm taking - but please don't interpret that as meaning it's boring. The management class is dull, but not this book....more
Sep 25, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aficionados of denmark, genocide
Being as it's very educational for a novel, this book depressed the fuck out of me, and my view of humanity still has not fully recovered from reading it. The best parts were the sections on actual genocide, and the actual story and characters took awhile to engage me, but they eventually did. It's interesting to learn about the calm, stoic Danish people and their way of life, which evidently involves Scandinavian furniture, a terrible job market, being stalked by Serbian war criminals, and quie...more
I found this book to be quite riveting and thought provoking. Set in Denmark, it explores the relationship between four women who work at the Danish Center for Information on Genocide. When two of the women receive death threats the office is thrown into turmoil. The subject matter was quite dark but by shifting the narrative among the various character's points of view the suspense was sustained throughout the entire 500 pages.
First I could not put it a day later I finished all 500 pages and can't stop thinking about it. A great read....not a comfortable read, but well worth it. Not an easy subject...but a very satisfying read. How many times do we think we are so "right" when our actions indicate otherwise?
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mardel Fehrenbach
An excellent, fascinating, probably somewhat controversial, and certainly unnerving novel. Some of the clunkiness of the prose may be due to the translation. It is a gripping story of good and evil, of interpersonal politics, and how even being " a good person" and "doing the right thing" does not necessarily protect you from the evil within. Little evils often add up to something bigger, and the convoluted story line and petty office politics have enough realism to ring true. The real horror of...more
Christian Jungersen’s The Exception is a gripping psychological thriller that dissects the perversions of human nature with a scalpel. Stitched into the narrative are studies on the nature of evil and accounts of real historical genocide, documenting patterns of savagery and entitlement that Jungersen then deftly reproduces in his characters. A recipient of the Danish Radio and Golden Laurels Prizes, nominee of literary awards throughout Europe, and New York Times Editor’s Pick, The Exception is...more
Christian Jungersen's book has been much talked about here in Denmark. It seems like everybody has read it and most people have loved it as well. I finally got around to reading it, and while I was well entertained while reading it, it wasn't as good as I expected it to be.
Undtagelsen (The Exception) is about four women working together at the Danish Centre for Genocide Information. The two youngest women, Iben and Malene, are old friends and they are in charge of the office, leaving the two old...more
Note to author: Most women do not act like those really awful 13-year-olds you encountered in middle school. Get over it.
I was assigned this book by my adviser for an independent study. All I had to do was read it - not write anything, and I was happy about that. However, now that I'm not required to do any more academic writing, and no one is really "listening," I feel compelled to put in my two cents. I know - ironic.

In short, I am NOT a fan of this book. The basic premise is interestin...more
David Gross
It’s got a lot going for it. You know early on that it is going to be making brutal office politics a microcosm reflecting elements of large-scale genocidal outrages. The office in question being a center for genocide studies allows for parallels to be drawn pretty explicitly.

This could get heavy-handed, but Christian Jungersen does a pretty good job keeping it interesting and poignant without drumming it in too harshly.

And the office politics bullying is done with a keen eye. I got the same sor...more
Lars Jensen
Bogen når ind til ondskabens væsen og holder spændingen hele vejen igennem uden de store armbevægelser.
"Ondskabens ansigt var ikke dæmoni og vildt had, det var et middelmådigt meneske der mest af alt tænkte på at fremme sin karriere i en bureaukratisk organisation." (s. 321)
Hvad eller hvem er undtagelsen? Findes der undtagelser, når det handler om menneskers ondskab?
Det lykkes Christian Jungersen at forklare en hel masse ved blot at vise alting gennem replik og handling. Selv essayene er replikk...more
Barbara Rhine
The Exception, by Christian Jungerson, on the other hand, is oddly compelling for the opposite reason. Set in the nonprofit Danish Center for Information on Genocide (DCIG), the book is about the surprisingly cut-throat competition among the women scholars who work there. There are threats from a mysterious and deadly source, and the women spend a lot of time suspecting one another. Two women bully a third, pretty much just because they don’t like her. One woman, apparently happily-married, has...more
Tami Spence
It was really hard to get into this book because I found the writing to be very uninteresting (which could partly be the translation). But the more I read, the more intrigued I became by the psychology of it. It picked up speed very gradually until suddenly I realized I was completely absorbed by it. The questions it brings up are fascinating and make it worth sticking with the more mundane sections.
this is an amazing book and really digs deep into the relationships of women that work together -- both the good and the bad. I would say that it gets about 70 percent of the dynamic right, and then 20 percent is off is due to the need to dramatize the situation to make a good book, and then 10 percent compeltly misses the way women interact.
Kenneth Fredette
Talk about twists, this book continually had them. You wondered about them and then something would change your opinion. This was a well thought out mystery. I'd talk about it but would give it away. Let's just say that the last 100 pages were fabulous, I couldn't put the book down.
A tough book to put down. It's "mean girls" grown up and working in an office together. Except it isn't any ordinary office, it's the Danish office for research & investigation of genocide. So these are supposed to be nice people, right? The psychological impact of the office bullying goes thermonuclear when the women working there start getting emails that threaten their lives. They've just published a report about genocide in Serbia that names names, and this raises the possibility that th...more
An unusual story with the elemets of a triller, intresting for people working in libraries, research or academia. Where is evil in our lives, who is evil, on how we see ourselves, there is a lot of thought-provoking material.
Incredibly intriguing. Loved that the setting really reflected on the author's style. Reminded me of Smilla's Sense of Snow.
Rachelle Urist
Here (#1) the review written for the Washtenaw Jewish News. Below it (#2) you'll find what I initially wrote, for Goodreads, upon finishing the book.

I started this book for my own reading pleasure. It won the Danish version of the Booker Prize, and it was recommended by a Dutch friend. I expected it to be a thriller with no connection to any Jewish experience. I quickly discovered that this novel is a fine candidate for WJN’s “Best Reads.” Jungerson spins a fine tale of four high minded and...more
Iona  Main Stewart
I read this book in the original Danish.

The main characters in the book are Malene, Iben, Anne-Lise and Camilla who work at the Danish Centre for Information on Genocide. Malene and Iben are best friends outside the office. Anne-Lise is a librarian and feels mobbed by the two and excluded from doing the work she was entitled to according to her qualifications and what she had been led to believe at her job interview.

Malene and Iben were previously in a traumatic hostage situation in Africa, wher...more
Ana Petrina
The Exception is a nervewrecking story about 4 women at the fictional Danish centre for Genocide. One day, two of the women recieve a mail threatening them on their life and from then on the characters struggle to keep their lives normal and find the person who sent the threatening mails. The story is narrated by three of the women, who experience the situation, their work and eachother in very different ways. At the same time, you get to know a bit about genocides and the psychology of evil. Fo...more
Nov 04, 2009 Trish rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tim, Aaron, Glenn
Four Danish women work in a small office, a government center that researches genocide. The hope is that studying horrifying events will lead to insights that can prevent their recurrence. But in spite of what the women know about the human capacity for cruelty, they are unable to prevent office cliques and subtle exclusion from growing into paranoid rivalries and delirious attacks. Perspective shifts among the four women -- glamorous but dependent Malene, intellectual Iben, outsider Anna-Liese,...more
Up until the last 50 pages or so, I was thoroughly enjoying this. But the climax and resolution left me baffled and let down. At around page 200 (out of 500) I had thought that I had a fairly good idea of what was actually going on and where things were ultimately headed. So viewing the remainder of the novel through that lense, I had a very different take on it. And I was apparently way off as it turned out. WAY off. I now look back at certain moments in the novel and realize how slightly ludic...more
I bought this book at a library book sale about 9 months ago. When I picked up this book to start reading, I had just finished serially watching "The United States of Tara" on Netflix, which I had stumbled across when I was searching for Sybil. Imagine my surprise when this book too incorporated Multiple Personality Disorder, now referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder.

This book is told from the points of view of 4 women who work together at a Danish center for information on Genocide....more
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Christian Jungersen is a Danish author now resident in Dublin, Ireland, and New York City. He is the author of two prize-winning and bestselling novels, Thickets (Krat) and The Exception (Undtagelsen) 2004.
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“We let rip with idealism and grand words, but it's nothing but rationalizations of our own egoistic behavior. Not only do we lie to others; we also lie to ourselves. Each one of us lives inside a house of mirrors -- our own instinctive self-righteousness distorts the way we view reality so that we can justify our actions to ourselves. And there's no way we can escape.” 3 likes
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