Book Review: Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows by Sigrid Undset (Historical Fiction)
Title:Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows Author: Sigrid Undset Publisher: University of Minnesota Press Publication Date: 10 November 2020 Pages: 336 Format: eBook - PDF Genre: Historical Fiction Source: ARC via NetGalley
The initial volume in
the Nobel Prize–winning author’s tumultuous, epic story of medieval
Norway—the first new English translation in nearly a century
As a child, Olav Audunssøn is given by his dying father to an old
friend, Steinfinn Toressøn, who rashly promises to raise the boy as his
foster son and eventually marry him to his own daughter, Ingunn. The two
children, very different in temperament, become both brother and sister
and betrothed. In the turbulent thirteenth-century Norway of Sigrid
Undset’s epic masterpiece, bloodlines and loyalties often supersede law,
and the crown and the church vie for power and wealth. Against this
background and the complicated relationship between Olav and Ingunn, a
series of fateful decisions leads to murder, betrayal, exile, and
disgrace. In Vows, the first book in the powerful Olav Audunssøn
tetralogy, Undset presents a richly imagined world split between pagan
codes of retribution and the constraints of Christian piety—all of which
threaten to destroy the lives of two young people torn between desires
of the heart and the dictates of family and fortune.
Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows was an engaging read on many levels. The characters and their situation caught my interest from the start, and I enjoyed Undset's saga-like storytelling style. This book is split into two parts, with the first section told from Olav's POV and the second from Ingunn's. I liked Olav in the first section; however, I turned against him a little in the second. This, though, comes from looking at the story and judging his actions with a modern eye; his actions would have been completely acceptable for the time period in which the story is set. I don't think this book has quite the magic of Kristen Lavransdatter, but I would be keen to read on in the tetralogy nonetheless, to find out what will happen to the characters. As far as the translation is concerned, the text flows nicely, with no jarring rhythms. This was a solid 4-star read for me.
I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.