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The Axe: The Master of Hestviken, Vol. 1 [Kindle Edition]

Sigrid Undset
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $12.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Set in 13th-century Norway, The Axe is the first volume in Undset's epic tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken. In it, we meet Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, who were betrothed as children and raised as brother and sister. In the heedlessness of youth, they become lovers, unaware that their ardor will forge the first link in a chain of murder, exile, and disgrace. Undset's novel is also a meticulous re-creation of a world split between pagan codes of retribution and the rigors of Christian piety--a world where law is a fragile new invention and manslaughter is so common that it's punishable by a fine."Undset reproduces medieval Norway in all the rich pageantry of color and form...she can transport us eight centuries and several thousand miles more effectively than most writers can take us into the house next door."--The Nation

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Norwegian

About the Author

Sigrid Undset is a major figure in early twentieth-century literature. A Norwegian born in Denmark in 1881, she worked with the Norwegian underground during the Second World War, fled to Sweden in 1940, and later came to the United States. She is the author of many works of fiction as well as several books for young readers and a number of nonfiction titles. Her novels encompass a variety of settings and time periods, ranging from medieval romances such as the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy—generally considered to be her masterwork—and The Master of Hestvikentetralogy to modern novels such as The Winding Road,Ida Elisabethand The Faithful Wife. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Sigrid Undset died in 1949.

Product Details

  • File Size: 493 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books edition (February 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004BXA3HW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,858 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Luminous Stuff December 17, 2003
I had never read anything by Sigrid Undset until I read this novel, though I had wanted to for a while. Reading Undset sounded like a reading experience that couldn't be replicated, Who else is a female, Nobel-Prize-winning, Norwegian, historic novelist whose work is compared to Tolstoy's. Anyway, after reading The Axe (not even considered her best work), I would say she certainly lived up to my expectations.
The basic plot follows Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter (don't be scared away by the names). They were betrothed as children under rather mysterious circumstances and were then raised together. Eventually, the two fall in love, and want to finally get married, seeing as they were betrothed to one another anyway. Times have changed, though, and the powers that be have decided to marry them off elsewhere. Olav and Ingunn vow to fight for their marriage, and the remainder of the action is this intense struggle.
The novel is superb. The writing at some moments, particularly the early love scenes, is truly sublime, with the lush imagery set up against the unique medieval Norwegian backdrop. I had to read a number of passages over and over just to reexperience their beauty. The moral scope of the novel also strikes me as particularly powerful and certainly invites comparison to Tolstoy. The events of the novel are all marked by a sin early in the novel which sends everyone into a moral tailspin. The characters are trapped in a moral maelstrom of their own making and in their struggle to find some sort of redemption is the ultimate meaning of the novel.
The Axe is one of the best novels I have ever read. Sigrid Undset cannot be forgotten. I can scarcely wait to read the rest of the Hestviken saga.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Saga March 2, 2000
To understand The Axe one has to read the entire tetralogy of the Master of Hestviken. Therefore this review applies to the whole, as well as the part. A memorable saga, not only of a good man gone wrong (not gone bad) in the incredibly harsh times of medieval Norway, but also of his soul through the various stages of Catholic spirituality and redemption. Sigrid Undset is a master of both historical and spiritual fiction, as well as a deserving Nobel prize winner in literature. A must read for serious soul searchers, but above all for serious Catholics. I felt I had insights into my own nature as a person as I read about Olav Audunsson and participated in his thoughts, troubles and dilemmas. A masterful work of literature. Norway is beautifully described together with its medieval traditions and beliefs. If you enjoy good and serious historical fiction from a Christian perspective, you must read Sigrid Undset.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe even better than Kristin Lavransdatter... December 28, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I moved on to the other, less well-known historical novel (4 volumes, this is the first) by Sigrid Undset after finishing Kristin Lavransdatter for the 2nd time and being in withdrawal. When I say the Master of Hestviken series is even better than KL, I should qualify that I am pretty impressionable about a book I have just finished. Many similar themes from KL--paying the price for young love--but following the life of a man from birth to death. The same beautiful details about life in midevil Norway, a little less of the interior monologues about religion and faith. I love both of SU's works that won her the Nobel Prize in literature. I am surprised that they and she are not more well known. I read somewhere that she personally preferred the Master series to KL, so maybe that colors my thoughts about which is better. If you love KL, definitely don't miss the Master of Hestviken. If you have never read S Undset before, you are in for a treat (if you like epic fiction set in earlier times, like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky.) I want to reread KL and the Master at every stage of my life, because there is so much profound wisdom in her stories and reflections about the consequences of our choices. One note about the Master series--whereas the KL trilogy has a newer translation with a less stilted, old fashioned English, the Master series has only one translation that is a little challenging to get used to, with its old English expressions. However, you quickly get used to it and can enjoy the story. Also, I purchased Vol. 1 in hard copy, then was in a hurry to continue and read 2-4 on Kindle. I prefer to hold the real book in my hands, and you can find less expensive used copies, but instant gratification won the day. Enjoy!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful saga of medieval times March 15, 1999
Sigrid Undset favored this work over her more popular Kristin Lavransdatter. But I found it more difficult to relate to the lives of Olav Audunsson and his lover Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, and had to read the book several times before I remembered it as well as Kristin. There is an overall atmosphere of hopelessness and depression that makes reading the book somewhat agonizing. Yet, the characters, plot and setting are conveyed so realistically, that one feels as if one knows the characters. There is no doubt in my mind that this is truly a literary masterwork.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide for the perplexed... June 22, 2003
I've read The Axe twice. It is superb. Undset's peers are writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
However, my edition, at least, lacks family tree pages. So here's some help for those who might be confused.
Olav Audunsson is the novel's hero. He was fostered by Steinfinn Toresson, but his parents were Audun and Cecilia. Cecilia was daughter of Bjorn Andersson and Lady Margrete, whose first husband was Erik, their children being Erik and Barnim. Barnim is important to the young Olav Audunsson.
Audun was son of Ingolf and Ragna. Ingolf was one of five children of Olav Olavsson and Astrid Helgesdatter: the others were Helge, Halldis (who married Ivar Staal), Borgny, and Torgils "Foulbeard." Foulbeard, who is still alive when Olav Audunsson is a youth, was foster-brother with Olav Half-Priest. Foulbeard sired a son, Arne, on a woman named Astrid. Astrid's brother was Benedikt Besseson. Arne was the father of Signe, Una, and Torgunn.
Olav Olavsson was son of Olav Torgilsson and Tora Ingolfsdatter. Olav Olavsson's grandfather was Torgils of Dyfrin, a great estate that Olav Audunsson passes in the third novel of the Master of Hestviken quartet. The axe of the novel's title has passed down to Olav from the Dyfrin days.
Astrid Helgesdatter was sister of Ingolf Helgesson.
Olav Ingolfsson is an "old kinsman" of Olav Audunsson's; Ingolfsson's mother was Bergljot of Tveit, and his siblings include Kaare.
Olav Ribbung is a great-grandfather of Olav Audunsson.
Ingunn and Olav Audunsson become lovers in The Axe, their youthful desires coinciding with an ambiguous betrothal. Ingunn is one of four children, the others being Tora, Hallvard, and Jon, of Steinfinn and Ingebjorg.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Literature
While this is a great piece of work, I felt like it was not exactly my cup of tea. I wanted more action and less brooding and heart breaking. Read more
Published 2 months ago by JJF
1.0 out of 5 stars tterrible translation
the translation is a joke, making it difficult and rather annoying to read. a shame, as parts of the book are quite enjoyable, but others simply make no sense.
Published 4 months ago by Ilana S. Hairston
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like historical novels
Set in medieval Norway, the story takes you through the thinking and customs of the time in an entertaining and gripping story of family. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mattie Engler
5.0 out of 5 stars Norse history
Beautiful prose, intriguing plot, true to life. Undset is a wonderful story teller with a fine grip of Norse history.
Published 13 months ago by AMJ
4.0 out of 5 stars THE AXE: THE MASTER OF HESTVIKEN, VOL. 1
Published 14 months ago by refq
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "Kristin Lavransdatter"
First of all, when I read Sigrid Undset's "Kristin Lavransdatter" I was instantly smitten. Easily it went to my personal top ten list of favorite books. Read more
Published on October 4, 2012 by K. Leask
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of love set in medieval Norway
While this is not in the same class as the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy which brought Undset the Nobel prize, The Master of Hestvicken series is a beautifully told story of love... Read more
Published on May 27, 2002 by Gail Moore
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