Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author's great-great-aunts.
Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake.
The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm's border, unsettles Oleanna's peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.
Oleanna was short-listed in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom novel competition.
The first thing that drew me to read this novel was its unusual setting of Norway in the early years of the 20th century. From the very start, its pages evoked an emotion of haunting loneliness that complimented the isolated setting and set the tone of the entire story.
To say I was impressed with the novel is an understatement. I was irresistibly drawn to the characters and always left guessing. Their actions were always unpredictable, holding my fascination, keeping me turning the pages to find out what they would do next. Anders was depicted with an abundance of mysteriousness. Was he truly a good man? Or what secrets did he hide?
Based on the true life story of the author's spinster aunts added fascination. The author was able to delve deep into the thoughts and emotions of the characters to give a detailed understanding of their struggles.
The quality of any novel is exemplified in the transformational journey of its main characters. In this regard, this story did not disappoint. The characters changed in ways I had not expected, especially Oleanna and her sister. Both women learned much about themselves and the land they clung to.
This novel abounds with haunting emotion, sadness, and ultimate triumph. I am not surprised it was shortlisted 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom novel competition. Oleanna is women's historical fiction at its finest. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and highly recommend it as a fascinating read giving insight into a lesser known country and period in history.