Wednesday 19 December 2012

Jenny by Sigrid Undset - Book Review

Title: Jenny
Author: Sigrid Undset
Publisher: Zoland Books  
Publication Date: 1998 (1911)  
Pages: 330  
Format: Paperback   
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Birthday Gift

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When Jenny was published in 1911, Undset found herself called immoral — “this is a side of the free, artistic life that the vast majority of citizens would rather not know.” The novel tells the story of Jenny Winge, a talented Norwegian painter who goes to Rome to seek artistic inspiration but ultimately betrays her own ambitions and ideals. After falling into an affair with the married father of a would-be suitor, Jenny has a baby out-of- wedlock and decides to raise the child on her own. Undset’ s portrayal of a woman struggling toward independence and fulfillment is written with an unflinching, clear-eyed honesty that renders her story as compelling today as it was nearly a century ago. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Having previously enjoyed Kristin Lavransdatter, I was interested to check out some of Undset's other works. Happily, I liked this early work of hers just as much.

This is an introspective and fairly bleak piece, but it paints an interesting picture of a woman in the early 20th century, trying to find her way through love and life. Jenny is a fascinating, if not entirely sympathetic, character and I quickly became immersed in her story.

I love the descriptive prose and Undset really used her words to great effect to bring the scenes to life. The portrayal of Rome is particularly well done and evocative.

I can highly recommend this book for those who don't insist on a truly happy-ever-after ending in their literary fiction.

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