Monday, April 7, 2014

Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset - New Release 4-1-14 - REVIEW


“I have been unfaithful to my husband.” Marta Oulie’s opening line scandalized Norwegian readers in 1907. And yet, Sigrid Undset had a gift for depicting modern women “sympathetically but with merciless truthfulness,” as the Swedish Academy noted in awarding her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. At the time she was one of the youngest recipients and only the third woman so honored. It was Undset’s honest story of a young woman’s love life—“the immoral kind,” as she herself bluntly put it—that made her first novel an instant sensation in Norway.

Marta Oulie, written in the form of a diary, intimately documents the inner life of a young woman disappointed and constrained by the conventions of marriage as she longs for an all-consuming passion. Set in Kristiania (now Oslo) at the beginning of the twentieth century, Undset’s book is an incomparable psychological portrait of a woman whose destiny is defined by the changing mores of her day—as she descends, inevitably, into an ever-darker reckoning. Remarkably, though Undset’s other works have attracted generations of readers, Marta Ouliehas never before appeared in English translation. Tiina Nunnally, whose award-winning translation of Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter captured the author’s beautifully clear style, conveys the voice of Marta Oulie with all the stark poignancy of the original Norwegian.
Women's Fiction
My Take:
5+ Stars
If you were to tell me this book was written in 1906 when this author was only twenty-four years old, living in Norway, I would say you're crazy! She writes as if she is much older, and is able to get us to pull us right into this story immediately without even knowing if we hadn't been told. 
In the beginning of the book, the introduction is written by Jane Smiley. The English translation (from Norwegian) is done by Tina Nunnally. This introduction explains that this author is known for being able to write stories about older women (with kids, too) even though it did not reflect her life, and they are very correct in saying that. It is said she has an ability to write with feeling and experience for any age. This holds true in what I read, although for what this young author has gone through in her young life would allow for this ability. She had a tough upbringing with her father dying at the age of forty, leaving her the daughter of a single mother. I have to say the writing in this book was so beautiful, right now I would go out and search for ALL of her books to read because of the beauty of her writing and how she captured my mind into this story immediately. This was a page turner for me from the moment I started reading it.
This book, at least the galley, tells us about all of the books she has written, mostly historical novels set in the Middle Ages. Her father wrote about Norse themes, and she followed in his footsteps, also branching out into Women's Fiction. The beginning of the book even tells us she has won the Nobel prize for literature in 1928, after many years of her writing, and I can see why.
In this book, we learn times don't change, and the very same things that haunt us today haunted us yesterday just as much. Yes, this is how the opening line of this book went, "I have been unfaithful to my husband", and it continues on in diary form. Marta really beats herself up for being unfaithful to her husband who is in what would be more understood as a sanitarium for having tuberculosis. At the end she tells us she is tired of writing these words of her pain, and stops writing the story after telling us about one more incident.
The main story of this book tells us how her husband, Otto, gets Consumption/Tuberculosis, and is hospitalized of which he never does return home. This was such a common problem of that era. I cannot imagine living through times such as these, with all these diseases that antibiotics were just short of being able to treat as it took them just a little longer to come out before so many people died, the polio vaccine included. Marta is more or less left at home living as a widow once he is hospitalized, and this is when she has an affair with Henrik.
After Otto dies, Henrik tries to get Marta to marry him, of which she wants nothing of, she and her children must move on.
The book is a sad book, but one we can relate to in the way she writes it. It is a book not to be missed. Her words grab your attention and don't let you go. This is one Novella (128 pages) I don't believe I will ever forget. 
I received this book for FREE from the Publisher, University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley in exchange to read and write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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