Saturday 5 June 2021

Book Review: Olav Audunsson II - Providence by Sigrid Undset (Historical Fiction)

Title: Olav Audunsson II - Providence
Author: Sigrid Undset
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: 1 June 2021
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley 

As Norway moves into the fourteenth century, the kingdom continues to be racked by political turmoil and bloody family vendettas that serve as the backdrop for Sigrid Undset’s masterful story about Olav Audunss√łn and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter. Betrothed as children and raised as foster siblings, their unbridled love for each other sets in motion a series of dire events—with a legacy of betrayal, murder, and disgrace that will echo for generations. In Providence, the second of Olav Audunss√łn’s four volumes, Olav settles in at his ancestral estate of Hestviken and soon brings Ingunn home as his wife. Both hope to put their troubles behind them as they start a new life together, but the crimes and shameful secrets of the past have a long reach and a tenacious hold. The consequences of sin, suspicion, and familial obligations may prove a greater threat to the pair’s happiness than even their long years of separation.

Set in a time when royalty and religion vie for power, and bloodlines and loyalties are effectively law,
Providence summons a powerful picture of Northern life in the medieval era, as the Swedish Academy noted in awarding Undset the Nobel Prize. Conveying both the intimate drama of Olav and Ingunn’s marriage and the epic sweep of their story, it is at once a moving and vivid recreation of a vanished world tainted by bloodshed and haunted by sin and retribution. 

For me, Providence did not quite have the magic of Vows (the first book in the series). I think this was partly because a lot happened in Vows, whereas this second volume was more about the aftermath of those earlier actions, without a huge amount of new action taking place. It therefore felt a little plodding at times and I found myself flicking the pages, waiting for something interesting to happen. It didn't help either that, while I remembered the general events of book one, it had been a while since I read that first volume, and it therefore took me a few chapters of book two to really get back on track with what was going on, as the story launched us straight in without much in the way of a recap. This was not a bad book; it simply lacked the excitement of its predecessor. Therefore, I am giving it 3 stars. Providence didn't leave me super excited for book three in the series; however, if given the opportunity, I would read on, in the hope that things will pick up again in the next volume.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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