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Ida Elisabeth: A Novel Paperback – September 15, 2011
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Undset's skillfully crafted novel explores with devastating simplicity and realism the quiet, hidden heartbreak experienced by a woman living with the consequences of a loveless marriage. The heroine's journey takes place within the evocative landscape of 1930s Norway but in many ways, it is a timeless portrait of the loneliness and guilt suffered by so many men and women when marriages break down. It will ring true with contemporary readers living at a time where marriage is so little appreciated and supported by society. ---Fiorella de Maria, Author, Poor Banished Children
Top Customer Reviews
Like Undset's more famous heroine, Ida Elisabeth is another woman who finds herself paying the price for romantic recklessness in her youth. After her reputation is damaged by the discovery of her sexual escapades with the feckless Frithjof, she feels that he is her inevitable destiny - for better or for worse. His total inability to hold down any decent job for a significant amount of time forces Ida Elisabeth into the role of breadwinner. It can be a bit jarring to read the novel and realize how rapidly things have changed in the past century - in the 19th century Norway, a woman who worked to provide for the household was totally unnatural and reflected badly on her husband. As in all Undset's novels, no character is entirely sympathetic. Frithjof is amazingly immature, but as lovable as the overgrown child he is. Ida Elisabeth is as hard-working as her husband is lazy, but she seems to lack a backbone. The modern woman in me wanted to scream at the way Ida Elisabeth permits herself to be taken advantage of by her cheerfully callous in-laws. They are very true to life - how many of us know people who happily railroad everyone else around them, blissfully unaware of how grossly selfish they are.
But Undset clearly intends that we not mistake her kindness for weakness. After Ida Elisabeth manages to free herself from her man-child of a husband and begins a new life with her children, a new suitor appears on the scene. But just in time to disrupt the fairytale ending, Frithjof drops back into Ida Elisabeth's life, in desperate straits and in need of her care. In an act of self-sacrifice nearly incomprehensible to readers accustomed to "empowered" characters who pursue their own desires, Ida Elisabeth lovingly cares for him for the sake of her children - and for his own sake. No, there isn't the "happy ending" that we expect - but we learn much about redemption and about the true meaning of love. I highly recommend this for fans of Kristin Lavransdatter. I didn't experience any issues with the translation, or with the Kindle edition.
". . . the grey light of a summer evening. She could feel a rain coming. . . . Between the trees and little houses she could glimpse the sea with the reflected light on the water beyond the pier. The air was laden with the smell of the beach and of the hay which hung drying on the slopes. There was the chuck-chuck of a motor out in the creek and some people were talking and laughing down in the road--and a tiny lamp was lighted behind a blind above the bank. The square of warm, subdued orange light seemed listening silently to all the faint and varied sounds that gave life to the evening."