Powerfully written and filled with magnificent vignettes of the daily life of a medieval estate, The Son Avenger suggests a Greek tragedy whose vision of fate coexists with a Christian sense of suffering and forgiveness. And in the somber, twilight figure of Olav the Bad, Undset has created an antihero as moving as Oedipus or King Lear.
It is Norway in the thirteenth century, a land rent by unremitting warfare and feebly lit by Christianity. Olav Audunsson was once an outlaw; now he is a man of wealth and stature. But he is haunted by the memory of crimes for which there is no easy atonement and by losses that may never be redeemed.
Set in medieval Norway, The Snake Pit follows Olav and Ingunn, who, though raised as brother sister, have become lovers in a world caught between the fading sphere of pagan worship and vendettas and the expansion of Christianity.
Set in thirteenth-century Norway, a land racked by political turmoil and bloody family vendettas, The Axe is the first volume in Sigrid Undset’s epic tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken. In it we meet Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, who were betrothed as children and raised as brother and sister. Now, in the heedlessness of youth, they become lovers, unaware that their ardor will forge the first link in a chain of murder, exile, and disgrace.
Soaringly romantic and psychologically nuanced, Undset’s novel is also a meticulous re-creation of a world split between pagan codes of retribution and the rigors of Christian piety–a world where law is a fragile new invention and manslaughter is so common that it’s punishable by fine.