The second volume in the Nobel Prize–winning writer’s epic of medieval Norway, finely capturing Undset’s fluid, natural style in a new English translation, the first in nearly a century
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 Audunssøn 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 Audunssøn’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.
As with her classic Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset immersed herself in legal, religious, and historical writings to create in Olav Audunssøn an astoundingly authentic and compelling portrait of Norwegian life in the Middle Ages. And as in her translation of Kristin Lavransdatter, Tiina Nunnally does full justice to Undset’s fluid prose. Undset’s writing style is by turns straightforward and delicately lyrical, conveying the natural world, the complex culture, and the fraught emotional territory against which Olav’s story inexorably unfolds.