- Series: Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
- Paperback: 161 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Penguin twentieth-century classics edition (April 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014118020X
- ISBN-13: 978-0141180205
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gunnar's Daughter (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – April 1, 1998
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This book was short, but told the tale as it needed to be told in its entirety. I loved every minute, though it brought me near to tears a few times. You will like this book, if only for its Middle Age Viking setting alone. There is another series of books by Undset that I'm trying to get a hold of, probably another set of winners.
It is a world where women have very little power, where wergild (money for life) is still practiced, and men fight each other at the smallest provocation.
Yet Gunnar's daughter emerges as a strong woman who chooses her own destiny, adheres to her principles, and refuses to marry the father of her son, raising the boy alone. The ending is not romance novel happy.
The novel is a very worthwhile read, so different from anything one is used to reading. No wonder Sigrid Undset received the Nobel Prize for the body of her work.
A good example of the saga form in modern literature indeed, and yet, despite the finely tuned prose of this novel, capturing the nuances and understatement of the saga voice with masterly strokes, there is an underlying stridency here, an almost emotional overreaching which is not, itself, true to the saga form. In some ways this book is too modern and its author's sensibility, at this juncture in her career, almost too young and unseasoned. Undset seems to be reaching for the tragic denouement of the Greek classics to end her tautly told tale rather than content herself with the flatly understated and finely nuanced wrap-up more appropriate to the saga form. But this Greek-like ending left me much colder than the drily tossed-off afterthought of a true saga might have done. And yet, for all that, Undset has here given us one of the better modern novels done in saga form. My hat is off to her.
By the way, for another really fine novel based on the old sagas, one, in fact, that I think outdoes even this one, try SAGA: A NOVEL OF MEDIEVAL ICELAND by contemporary Canadian author Jeff Janoda. Many have tried to evoke the sagas in modern prose but few have done it as well as he has. Janoda has written a contemporary novel that does genuine justice to its original source, Eyrbyggja Saga, while not succumbing to the overwrought sensibility which mars GUNNAR'S DAUGHTER at the end. If you like fiction grounded in the old Norse saga literature, then Janoda's book should be your very next stop.
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
Beautiful writing enhances the feel of listening to a saga by a fire in a time long past.