cover image Olav Audunssøn: III. Crossroads

Olav Audunssøn: III. Crossroads

Sigrid Undset, trans. from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. Univ. of Minnesota Press, $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-5179-1334-2

The engrossing third volume of Nobel Prize winner Undset’s tetralogy of medieval Norway concludes the story of Norwegian chieftain Olav Audunssøn. Undset opens with the arrival of two men who invite Olav to captain their boat to England. Olav is grieving the loss of his wife, Ingunn, and decides to leave his estate. Their oldest son, Eirik, is heartbroken when Olav leaves him left behind, and the two men become estranged. In England, Olav faces a spiritual crisis and considers abandoning his estate and family. When he ultimately returns to Norway, he resigns himself to a quiet life. But when war breaks out, Olav’s spirit is renewed by a restored sense of purpose as he helps raise the countryside’s people against invaders. Though the many scenes of bloody battles and intense Christian soul-searching might turn away some readers, Undset keeps up a steady supply of beautiful descriptions of the land and sea, which Nunnally crisply conveys: “Ice still glistened and glittered along the slope of the fields facing north”; “from the wharf rose the strong springtime smell of the sea and tar and fish and water-soaked wood.” Fans of well-researched historical epics ought to check this out. [em](Oct.) [/em]

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated this book was the final entry in a tetralogy.