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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  675 ratings  ·  55 reviews
When Jenny was first published in 1911, Undset found herself called immoral — “this is a side of the free, artistic life that the vast majority of citizens would rather not know.” The novel tells the story of Jenny Winge, a talented Norwegian painter who goes to Rome to seek artistic inspiration but ultimately betrays her own ambitions and ideals. After falling into an aff ...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Steerforth (first published 1911)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Steven Godin
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was my third Norwegian writer in a row, after knut hamsun and Henrik Ibsen, but whereas they felt Scandinavian in nature, Sigrid Undset's novel 'Jenny' had more in common with E. M. Forster, Gustave Flaubert and even Thomas Hardy. I didn't really know what to expect, knowing little of both novel and writer (apart from her 1928 Nobel prize), and was taken aback by some gorgeous writing, that was lively, bright, and modernistic considering its age, before the narrative turned into a more somb ...more
My first Sigrid Undset, Jenny is the tale of a woman who is undone by her high moral standards and her desire for true love. At twenty-eight, Jenny is already at an advanced age for any unmarried woman of the time. She is a compassionate and caring person, but she holds her emotions at arm’s length in order to avoid any moral slip-up, primarily because she does not want to damage her chances with the “right man” when he finally comes . She wishes to be able to give herself to someone with comple ...more
Alice Poon
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a heartbreaking story set in the distant past about a young Norwegian woman artist who is torn between her desire for self-development and her longing for true love. However, the values and principles behind the actions of the protagonist could well reflect the moral dilemma of many decent women of today with an educated mind. Is love or work more important?

Born to an unwholesome family where fatherly love is lacking, Jenny has always had to fend for herself while growing up. Her greates
4,5 stars.

Some classics are classics for a reason. That being said, I don't understand why this book isn't more famous, at least in Sweden (it may very well be more famous in Norway). Perhaps it's the fatalistic touch, the melodrama, and the female main character that pose a problem - because I had never heard of it before I found it a flea market 3 or so years ago. Undset is of course überknown in Scandinavia for Kristin Lavransdatter (which shares some traits with Jenny), and I read that one a
Sidharth Vardhan
It could have been written by Edith Wharton with tragedy of centeral woman characters, well controlled prose and social-psychological insight. It might lack a bit in beautiful phrases but that might be just translation, otherwise fans of Edith Wharton will enjoy seeing Sigrid Undset do to European art class of her time but wharton does to American luxurious class of hers.
Mar 07, 2016 rated it liked it
The writing was beautiful but the ending was soooo predictable
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A- Excellent but devastatingly sad book. A young talented female artist is living in Italy, a wonderfully free life to focus on art, friendship, and fun. After a young man pursues her, she falls in love. However, love on vacation does not work out in real life. As her lover proves to be controlling, and familiar issues get in the way, she falls into a romance with a rather unusual choice. Love and heartbreak destroys her life, and this heartbreaking story is sad, gorgeously written, and will hau ...more
Claire Larson
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a WILD book... Very engaging. Don't be put-off by Undset's conservative religiosity, she could write one hell of a story, (or several).
Marjorie Campbell
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Interesting first novel for one of my favorite authors. Takes dramatic, unexpected turns and character of Jenny blossoms, withers and ... won't spoil the ending.
Nicki Markus
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-historical
Having previously enjoyed Kristin Lavransdatter, I was interested to check out some of Undset's other works. Happily, I liked this early work of hers just as much.

This is an introspective and fairly bleak piece, but it paints an interesting picture of a woman in the early 20th century, trying to find her way through love and life. Jenny is a fascinating, if not entirely sympathetic, character and I quickly became immersed in her story.

I love the descriptive prose and Undset really used her word
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
It is a bit slow and difficult to read in the beginning. Should probably mention that I read the original norwegian version, I would imagine the english translation to be a bit easier. Despite this, Jenny really is an excellent book once you get into it. The last hundred pages or so are unbelievably intense, and the ending is quite shocking and unexpected. Also, Undset put so many beautiful images, you can almost feel like you are there, in Rome in the 1900s. This book really touched me, and I t ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Undset writes such real visceral characters and gives them intimate existential truths and lies to speak. This is like The Bell Jar?
My personal reaction to Jenny was that this was a world that could not give her what she tried to have from it. The men are horrid - that's my personal reaction - Sigrid Undset spends quite a bit on Gunnar at the end so I think she approved of him and he is the best of them but I didn't feel it that much; he may have been right and could have been there for her
The Nobel Prize laureate in literature of 1928, Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset, begins her novel Jenny with Helge Gram's long yearned for arrival in Rome. Lost in the maze of unknown streets, he asks two Northern looking young women for help. They are Jenny Winge and her friend Cesca Jahrman, two painters living in Rome. During the following weeks they and other friends pass much time together, above all Helge and Jenny. On her birthday in January Helge avows his love to Jenny and asks a kiss of ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 17, 2015 is currently reading it
Its extremely dissapointing that the description of this book on Goodreads is one enormous spoiler. I've been reading this book off and on for years (old Norwegian is difficult even when Norsk is one's first language) and have gotten past that first night when Hege first met Jenny and the others. The way Undsett writes; its almost as if she is whispering the story in my ear, but as Jenny, not Hege. To some degree this description has robbed me of the intensity I expect to encounter in this book, ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this novel in its original language (Norwegian) and 16 year old me growing up in Trondheim, loved it. True to its realist form Undset adds sudden incidents of devastation and pain to the already melancholy plot. I still remember six years later. This was one of the great "marriage" novels in lieu of Undset's naturalist literary cousin Amalie Skram, that paved my lifelong affair with the genre.

Jenny is a budding artist in Rome. She meets and involves herself with men. Has a baby. The baby
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Some books have personal expiration dates. So much of the story of Jenny is for people who are struggling through their "years of apprenticeship". There are many long passages where characters expound on the purpose of art, love, how to live, and the complexities of womanhood. What was particularly difficult to me was that after much assertion about how to be a woman and an artist, none of the women in the book are able to sustain such a life.
Parts of the story were endearing, like the scenes be
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a very sad story of a young woman artist who lost first her father, then a loving stepfather, too early in life and who has learned to put too high a value on independence. One of her best friends describes Jenny as generous, reliable, and always there for others, but with a strong tendency to withdraw when she herself needs help. She expresses doubt about whether it is possible to love someone and also to be dependent on them. I enjoyed reading it because it explores many of the ideas a ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Dark. Introspective. Jenny moves from Norway to Rome to get away from her family and to develop her painting and is part of a group of ex-patriots who lived a fee, artistic life that in 1921 a vast majority of citizens called immoral. She ultimately betrays her own ambitions and ideals when she has an affair with the father of her boyfriend, has a baby who is born frail and dies after a few weeks, and finally gives in to the first boyfriend. A compelling and honest story.
Father Nick
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reading JENNY has certainly intensified my respect for Undset as an author. This novel is of such a different quality than the historical fiction she is known for that I can only remark at how different her writing style had become by the time she had written KRISTEN and HESTVIKEN.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I have come to know Undset's style through her trilogy, this was easy reading. Again Sigrid deals with characters who are torn throughout by their strongly held beliefs and one does not read an Undset novel for fairytale endings.
Rose Collins
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Story of a young woman artist who falls in love with an older married man, actually the father of a friend. Because of this dilemma she and the story is somewhat depressing. Not near my favorites by Undset.
Steven Monrad
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
A great author.
Her medieval historical series are the best.
This novel is about conflict in love, sex, morals among young Scandinavian artists in and out of Rome, probably from her own life in the very early 20th century.
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-lit, 20s
without a doubt, so far, my favorite Undset novel
Marti Lewis
Writing is good, but the story line is tragic and left me numb. I read a spoiler in another review here before I got to those twists.
Sep 01, 2007 added it
Shelves: want-to-read
According to my book-a-day calendar, this novel published in 1911 is Whartonesque. I hope so!
Alexandra Crocodile
Nov 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
I donj't loke Sigrid Undset's books at all, and this is no exception. No one creates such unsympathetic MCs liek Undset. Ugh.
Oct 27, 2008 rated it liked it
This is one of Undset's earlier novels and is a little clumsy in its execution -- at least in its ending. I still really liked it, but I'd recommend some of her more famous novels more.
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This work amazes me immensely.
Hanna Rudakouskaya
Actually I'm not sure it's the greatest book I've ever read. It made me sad and nothing more. Very tragic. The only beautiful thing is atmosphere of Rome in the beginning.
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English Translati...: Sigrid Undset - Jenny 1 5 Oct 17, 2019 07:32AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add info (2) 3 13 Apr 30, 2018 10:41AM  
Jenny by Sigrid Undset 1 12 May 05, 2009 09:03PM  

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Undset was born in Kalundborg, Denmark, but her family moved to Norway when she was two-years-old. In 1924, she converted to Catholicism and became a lay Dominican. She fled Norway in 1940 because of her opposition to Nazi Germany and the German occupation, but returned after the end of World War II in 1945.

Sigrid Undset received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Most of the praise was for h

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Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," start...
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“Jeg trodde jeg var skuffet - og jeg tenkte det var fordi jeg hadde lengtet så meget og drømt så meget, at alt jeg ville få se, skulle bli blekt og fattig imot mine drømer. Har De lagt merke til når man ligger en sommerdag i solen med lukkede øyne ? Når man åpner dem, er likesom alle farver grå og falmer en stund. Men det er bare fordi øynene er vekket av å være ubrukte en tid - de orker ikke straks å oppfatte den mangfoldighet av farver som er i virkeligheten - det første inntrykk blir ufullkomment of fattig. Forstår De hva jeg mener ?” 2 likes
“What kind of goal did I have, anyway?” she exclaimed fiercely. “I wanted to live in such a way that I would never have to be ashamed, either as a human being or as an artist. Never do a single thing that I didn’t think was right. I wanted to be honest and steadfast and kind, and never have another person’s pain on my conscience. So what was the crime that started it all? That brought on everything else? The fact that I longed for love, without having any specific man I longed for? Was that so strange? That I wanted so much to believe, when Helge appeared, that he was the one I had been longing for? Until in the end I believed it was true? That was the beginning, from which everything else followed Gunnar … I did believe … that I could make them happy. Yet I caused nothing but harm.”
Jenny part 3 ch 9”
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