Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review and International Giveaway: Oleanna by Julie K. Rose


Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author's great-great-aunts.

Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake.

The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm's border, unsettles Oleanna's peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.

My Review

4 Stars

Julie K. Rose's Oleanna is a beautifully written story of loneliness, guilt and hope.  Set at the turn of the 20th century in a small Norwegian fjordland village, the novel focuses on Oleanna, a young woman trying to carve out a life for herself, her sister and her nephew on their remote family farm after the departure of their brother for America.  The world around them is quickly changing, but life on the farm remains fixed and Oleanna, battling ghosts and tradition, sees little point in creating a new life for herself.  As Oleanna becomes increasingly drawn to Anders, a cotter living in a small cottage neighbouring her family's farm, she begins to question what she wants from life and whether or not she has the courage necessary to change her path.

One of this novel's greatest strengths is Rose's lovely prose, which is particularly striking when describing the setting.   Indeed, it is not difficult to envision the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the fjordland as one reads this novel.  Rose's prose not only captures the beauty of the fjordlands, but also its loneliness and isolation by highlighting life on a small farm seemingly cut off from the wider world.  While the pace of this novel is slow, it helps the reader to savour the story and is appropriate given the setting. 

Another strength of this novel is Rose's creation of a strong, sympathetic female lead.  Burdened by guilt over the loss of her mother and a beloved sister, Oleanna tries to do what is best for her family and her farm, even if it means setting aside her own dreams.  Through Oleanna, and to a lesser extent Anders, Rose is able to convey the power the dead can sometimes have over the living, as well as illustrate just how difficult guilt can be to overcome. 

Not being familiar with the 1905 separation of Norway from Sweden, I was intrigued by the snippets of the story that provided a small glimpse into this seminal event in Norway's history.  As an inhabitant of a village in which the separation would have little impact, Oleanna's reaction to it is particularly interesting.  While I do wish more of this history had been incorporated into the novel, it doesn't suffer from its omission. 

Oleanna is recommended to all readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in reading about a time and place not generally featured in the genre. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

About the Author

Julie K. Rose is an author of unique historic and contemporary fiction. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, current co-chair of the HNS Northern California chapter, and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review. She earned a B.A. in Humanities (SJSU) and an M.A. in English (University of Virginia), and lives in the Bay Area with her husband. She loves reading, following the San Francisco Giants, watching episodes of Doctor Who, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her second novel.  The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author's great-great-aunts.

Check out Julie's website at http://www.juliekrose.com/


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for Oleanna, with one copy available to be won courtesy of the author.

Contest details are as follows:

- The contest is open internationally and will run until midnight (EST) on March 5, 2013.
- While entrants aren't required to follow this blog, new followers are always appreciated :-)
- To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address.

Good luck!

Be sure to come back and visit on Thursday when I'll feature a Q&A session with Julie!