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“Set in the early years of the twentieth century, from the time when Norway finally gains its independence from Sweden, all the way up to the first days of World War I, Sigrid Undset again depicts the beautiful landscape of Norway while telling a spellbinding yet heartbreaking story about real...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Set in the early years of the twentieth century, from the time when Norway finally gains its independence from Sweden, all the way up to the first days of World War I, Sigrid Undset again depicts the beautiful landscape of Norway while telling a spellbinding yet heartbreaking story about real human characters. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928, Undset is one of my favorite authors. Her style is plain, straightforward, and piercingly insightful, and her understanding of her characters thorough and subtle.
The Wild Orchid, the first of a two-book series called "The Winding Road", follows Paul Selmer, a young man who falls in love with the charmingly rustic Lucy Arnesen. The two come from different worlds, but Paul is adamant in his intentions to marry her, despite the disapproval he meets with from his family. The story comes to a startling and shocking climax that I won't spoil here. One slightly frustrating aspect of this book is the fact that the reader doesn't really get to see the cause, or even the immediate consequences, of this sudden development, until almost the end of the second book when two characters who have long been estranged finally meet each other again.
Another central aspect of the novel is Paul's search for truth, which results first in a mild flirtation with, and finally with a serious approach to Catholicism. This is a fresh and bold move on Undset's part, for a couple of reasons: firstly, religion itself was at the time of the book's writing, and continues to be today, not a subject taken very seriously or felt to be terribly attractive; and secondly, because Catholicism has been a minority faith in Norway since the Reformation, viewed there with deep suspicion. Yet the case for Catholic Christianity which is made to Paul, gradually and through a variety of situations and developments, is not only believable but rational and compelling. The discussions Paul has with other characters, such as his liberal-minded brother-in-law and his modern, "free-thinking" mother, are keen and intriguing, especially the point that Paul, a skeptic himself, makes about the truth or falsehood of Christianity.
The heart, though, of this novel is Paul and Lucy themselves, and the suffering, yearning and love they experience together. One thing that Undset has proven her skill in depicting through fiction is passion. Emotion that seeps through every aspect of the story and of her character's lives. ”