Following "The Axe", "The Snake Pit" and "In the Wilderness", this is the concluding volume of Sigrid Undset's great novel "The Master of Hestviken". Since the story is so intricate and full of detail, I would strongly advise not to read this book by its own since the reader might become confused and would not truly appreciate this magnificent tale. Although, unfortunately, the story is not available in one volume, all four books are certainly worth the money they cost. Moreover, each volume has a beautiful cover depicting scenes from the novel.
The story takes place in medieval Norway, a land torn by unremitting warfare and not yet fully converted to Christianity. The first three books tell the story of Olav Audunsson, who, after killing a man at a very young age, becomes an outlaw. As a consequence, he has to endure a long and bitter separation from Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, his childhood sweetheart, before they are finally able to marry. However, their new life is tainted by Olav's past and by the fact that Ingunn has brought shame upon herself. Although Olav once again becomes a man of wealth and stature, he is haunted by his past deeds and cannot find true happiness. Having lost his wife and being estranged from his son, Olaf leaves Hestviken and embarks on a journey of adventure and remorse which will finally lead him to a bloody reckoning.
In this concluding volume, Olav is no longer a young man. He has outlived his enemies and the woman he once loved so deeply. Now, in his twilight years and foreseeing the fearful consequences of their action, Olav is forced to watch his children, and especially his rebellious oldest son Eirik, reenact the sins for which he himself suffered so greatly as a youth.
The author's prose is so incredibly beautiful and the story is so rich in historical detail that it reminds one of the great Norwegian Sagas. It takes the reader back to a time when violence and bloody vendettas racked a land not yet fully touched by Christianity. The author depicts strong characters driven by passion and a desire for revenge who seldom find true peace and happiness. Written between 1925 and 1927 by a woman, this novel was truly ahead of its time.