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Review: "Oleanna" by Julie K. Rose

Synopsis:  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 Thoughts:  I was very surprised by what an absolutely beautiful story Oleanna is.  The writing is superb and every last character is well-developed and unique.  Oleanna is the story of a woman living on a farm in rural Norway at the turn of the century.  The lead character, Oleanna, is trying to come to grips with the loss of her mother and sister, and decide which path she should take as life moves forward around her.

Oleanna is such an amazingly strong character.  She kept her family's farm running and managed to keep it all together in the face of extreme loss and grief.  I think what I liked most about her was that she had no idea how truly strong she was.  She felt so bogged down by all of her responsibilities and all of the loss and yet she still managed to get out of bed each day and do what needed to be done.  The author did such a great job of creating a character that you couldn't help but admire.  I also really loved Anders' character.  He was so kind and he truly loved Oleanna even though it took her so long to trust that he would never leave.  Even as she pushed him away, I kept rooting for them to get together.

I really enjoyed the author's description of the fjords of Norway.  I am not familiar with Norway at all so it was new and exciting for me.  The descriptions of the lake and the cottage where Oleanna and Anders would sneak off to made me want to go live in a cottage by a lake.  The picture in my head was of such a gorgeous and peaceful place to live despite all the 'ghosts' and bad memories that seemed to haunt the land.  

Oleanna is a short book but the author didn't scrimp on details.  There were times that the story moved a little slow; especially in the beginning but I still really enjoyed this book.  I will be definitely be looking forward to more books by this author.  3 stars. 

About the Author:
 I'm an author of historic and contemporary fiction, and I'm particularly interested in the intersection of the spiritual and secular, the supernatural and the everyday, the past and the present, and the deep, instinctual draw of the land.

I am a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, current co-chair of the HNS Northern California chapter, and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review. I earned a B.A. in Humanities (SJSU) and an M.A. in English (University of Virginia), and live in the Bay Area with my husband and our cat Pandora. I love reading, following the San Francisco Giants, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is my 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.

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Be sure to stop by on April 5 for a guest post by Julie K. Rose!


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