Oleanna by Julie K. Rose

Title: Oleanna
Author: Julie K. Rose

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1900s / Norway / Rural Life / Emigration )
Publisher/Publication Date: First edition (1/2012)
Source: The author.

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: Yes -- I hung on every word!
One-sentence summary: The story of two Norwegian sisters at a rural Norwegian farm in the early 1900s.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the art is obviously inspired by the real-life setting of the novel

First line: Oleanna Tollefsdatter Myklebost was beset by ghosts: winter ice in her veins, chill and stiff even during the long summer days of the midnight sun.

Do... I love the extras offered on the author's website?: YES. There's a reader's guide, various Q&As, and scads of articles on 19th and early 20th century Norwegian life.

Did... I develop a hot crush on our heroine?: YES. Smart, tough, loving, interesting, moody, emotional, creative, serious, flirty...the reasons are numerous.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is a wonderfully quiet, beautiful, emotional novel of family, love, and a identity.

Why did I get this book?: Early 20th century Norwegian hist fic?! Like I'd say no!

Review: When this book ended, I contemplated flipping back to the start in order to begin again. I absolutely didn't want to leave the characters I had come to like so much.

Set in early 20th century Norway, this novel drew me in immediately with the heartbreaking story and quiet, intense characters. Oleanna and her sister Elizabeth are left on their isolated farm in southern Norway after their brother emigrates to the U.S. Already too familiar with loss -- tragic deaths, ended engagements, the absence of their loved ones -- Oleanna and Elizabeth face their time on their farm with pragmatic determination and couched restlessness.

There's elegant restraint in how Rose articulates love and loss, passion and madness, the rhythm of farm life, the quietude of rural Norway. In this book, I saw shades of both Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather. Rose's story of a strong woman at an isolated Norwegian farm reminded me immediately of Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter while the novel's theme of emigration, place, and identity felt like a companion to Cather's O Pioneers!.

This is a historical novel for my wife, who believes life is hard and should be unvarnished. Rose doesn't employe melodrama or theatrics and yet this is a story of deep loss, sadness, and heartbreak, the kind that just digs and twists (I'm getting teary again recalling the few particularly sad scenes!).

I'm normally a bit hesitant about novels that feature the author's ancestors or family members -- I find that sometimes the author doesn't have enough distance to make the characters real -- flawed or otherwise. In this case, Rose's Oleanna and Elizabeth are vibrant and complicated -- I just adored them and their journey.

Even if you aren't typically a historical fiction fan, consider this novel -- it's a wonderful snapshot of a place and a time set in tradition but uprooted by enormous transition. A story of ordinary women, unique and astounding in their own way, that will charm and captivate.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to be able to offer TWO copies of Oleanna to two lucky readers. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 8/31.  Be sure to check out my interview with the author for another chance to enter!


Comments

  1. This sounds good. I'd love to read some historical fiction set in Norway. Thanks for the chance to enter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a marvelous novel -- I had a hard time not just doing stupid gushing with this review!

      Delete
  2. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this one sounds wonderful. Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne -- this is my favorite kind of hist fic, too -- wonderfully real, with such vibrant characters and a gorgeous sense of place -- heavenly!

      Delete
  3. I don't read much historical fiction and can't think of any book I've read that's set in Norway. This sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Consider giving this one a try -- it's really a wonderful story about two sisters -- their aspirations -- and reminded me so much of the quietness of Cather's fiction.

      Delete
  4. Wow, this sounds really lovely! It seems like a nice counterpoint to all those Scandinavian murder mysteries that are deluging the market :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES -- exactly! A less murderous look at Scandinavia! ;) And it's a beautiful book -- delicious and moody.

      Delete
  5. I love the idea of a Norwegian setting. Plus, I love Willa Cather! Sounds good-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, you can't go wrong with this one -- it's a winner, hands down. Will likely make it on my top 10 of 2012!

      Delete
  6. This does sound incredible and intense, and just like the type of historical fiction that I love to read. I must see if I can procure a copy of this one. It's not often that you find such a hard hitter in this genre. Very elegant review today. I enjoyed it quite a bit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like a broken record, saying the same things over and over, but really, this book has it all -- and does so in such a neat, compact style. Enormous themes shared with a tight focus -- made so compelling due to Rose's wonderful characters.

      Delete
  7. I've heard about this book before and it piqued my interest. Would love a copy.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm not familiar with either title or author, so thanks for bringing them to my attention!

    p. s. if i never told you before, i love the book photo background on your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emily, thank you! I took it myself and have been back-and-forth about whether it's too busy for the blog. I might toy around with softening it -- or fading it -- something to make it a little less busy. But thanks for saying something about it -- you made my night!

      Delete
  9. You know a book is good if you immediately want to re-read it. I'll definitely keep this one in mind!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! I just wanted to continue being with Oleanna -- I miss her, weirdly enough!

      Delete
  10. I love historical fiction..and this one sounds like a good one...and the true testament of it is when you say you immediately wanted to begin reading it again after finishing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Serena -- this is the best kind of hist fic -- a new-to-me locale, real figures, fascinatingly mundane tensions that are so captivating and real -- such a treat to read.

      Delete
  11. Your enthusiasm for the book is infectious! Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Darlene, I'm glad -- I'm always afraid I'm too restrained in reviews or not gushy enough -- and this one begs to be gushed over!

      Delete
  12. Thank you for the giveaway and specially for making it open to all. Much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The author was gracious and generous enough to make it international -- I'll be sure to let her know!

      Delete
  13. Sounds awesome! I am excited by the giveaway as I have already entered a giveaway for this book and not won - fingers crossed this time round :)

    And I agree with your wife that life is hard and shouldn't be varnished to a certain extent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, my wife is all for the hard look at life -- what Rose did was offer that *and* some hopeful moments (which I what I need!) -- really, this was a marvelous balanced novel. Honestly, I get all sigh-y just at the thought of it!

      Delete
  14. I loved this book when I read it, too. I especially enjoyed the characterization and the unusual setting. A beautifully written book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Have not read it or even heard of it but it sounds delightful.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review & Giveaway: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry