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The Snake Pit

(The Master of Hestviken #2)

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4.22  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Set in medieval Norway, the books follow Olav and Ingunn, who, though raised as brother and sister, have become lovers in a world caught between the fading sphere of pagan worship and vendettas and the expansion of Christianity.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 29th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1925)
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Elizabeth
This book is gorgeous- much deeper, richer, and more complex than Book one. So much to ponder. I can't begin to do this book or any book by Sigrid Undset justice in a "book review."

Oh! And I really enjoyed the meeting of Olav and Lavrans & Ragnfrid from "Kristin Lavransdatter."

A favorite quote: "The sin of all sins is to despair of God's Mercy. "

One caveat: I am reading the Kindle version of these books and I did not notice it as much with book one but with this book, I did notice a few
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Alan
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Got the book because of the title is the same as a 1948 Olivia de Haviland movie that my wife and I enjoyed (and related to). My wife came across it while packing things out of the house her mother no longer occupies. The book was originally owned by her grandfather, a Smith College professor, and then her father, so it's something of a family heirloom.

As for the book itself, I didn't realize till I started reading it that it has no connection to the movie, and it is part 2 of a 4 part series. I
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Michael
The Snake Pit is not so eventful as The Axe, the series' first installment, but it is in a way more emotional and tragic, dealing with Olav's and Ingunn's life together at Hestviken, trying to live the peaceful, happy life they have always dreamed of but constantly encountering disappointment. Ingunn's son from the previous book, Eirik, becomes a character in his own right, a strange and unique boy who gives a slightly skewed but still valuable and moving view of his parents and their lives ...more
Tom Johnson
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sigrid Undset is a writer for the ages - her themes cover the most basic of human needs - I finished the first 2 books of KL but could only start the third - MoH I find far more interesting - one gets a sense as to why SU converted to Catholicism - the Lutheran Church (as I remember from my youth) has no Latin liturgy and no Mary worship - from this tetralogy I sense SU found both to add much to her religious experience and she made me feel the same - I'm not religious in the sense of church ...more
Mary
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The drama and the darkness continue. Amazing to consider this was written by a sheltered young woman in her 20's which led to her winning a Nobel Prize for Literature. Undset's writing "combines a supreme identification on the author's part with the manners, the morals, the feelings of the Middle Ages, and an understanding and creative grasp of fundamental human character. The characters are created wholly from within." That said, it is exhausting for me to read because I struggle WITH the ...more
Elizabeth
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
"The Snake Pit" probably deserves 5 stars, but I found it so excruciating to read...I'd forgotten how Undset can really skewer a mother's heart, especially. I can't think of another book I've read in which despair is so tangible -- and has affected me so much. That said, the darkness only makes the theme of redemption all the more powerful. As I told a friend who'd read "The Axe" with me but couldn't finish this second book -- I'll press on, but the payoff had better be good!
Ashley
Dec 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Oh man, this story is heavy. There is not a happy moment in it. But I am still struck by how powerful both the characters and situations are. The family in this book has some big problems, but their struggles and attempts at love are moving. And I still love the Christian themes throughout--although these people have a warped relationship with penance and honor. But that's medieval Norway for you. I definitely want to read the next two volumes, but maybe when winter is over . . .
Nina
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Olav and Inguun continue to battle with their feelings. Undset shows a beautiful picture of a couple who are bound to each other but have such difficulty expressing themselves. The background of religion and paganism in 13th century Norway becomes more apparent in this book. This series feels like a travel book in a way (a genre which I love). It's both a beautiful portrait of a couple and a portrait of Norway at the time.
Joanne
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating series. Sights, sounds, smells...the setting becomes immediate. The people become known. I'm going to read the next two books.
Sherry
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Book 2 of the story over the lifetime of one man carrying sins and secrets of revenge. Great love story entwined.
Seth
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This story--detailing the way sin slowly works its poison through the lives of the characters--is difficult to read.
Mark Werderitsch
The Snake Pit is essentially a sudser describing the trials and tribulations of a couple fostered together who, while they love each other, have a joyless marriage during which each has an adulterous liason and an out of wedlock child in late thirteenth and early fourteenth century Norway. The details of everyday life are more interesting than the story. The Norwegian version was published in the late twenties and this translation dates from 1930. It badly needs to be redone. The English used is ...more
John O'Brien
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The second in the 4-volume saga of "The Master of Hestviken" continues here, bringing Ingunn and Olav out of exile and into a new life together. But the hidden sins of the past remain with them, and they do not seek to purge them, either through civil or church means. An already dark saga gets darker, the already tragic ends more tragically here in volume two, but the final word is mercy, pointing to new beginnings (I hope) in the third and fourth.
John
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This second installment of Undset's Master of Hestviken series is equally as well done as the first, continuing the story of Olav Audonsson and his wife Ingunn in medieval Norway.
Connie
Oct 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Loved it - the earlier volumes go slowly, and my favorite is the last volume. The book I had combined all the volumes into one book.
Kathy
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although I have always enjoyed well written historical fiction, I wasn't really drawn to read about medieval times in Norway so this series has been a pleasant surprise. The characters are people of their time, but not so very different from people in any age. Olav Audunsson is a man of faith and morals who nevertheless became an outlaw for several years. Now he is back and can claim Ingunn as his wife Ingunn. He and feels guilty for the trials she has gone through, but like so many of us he ...more
A.K. Frailey
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sigrid Undset is a fantastic writer, but I must admit that I got weary of the emotional drama. Sin and brokenness is a part of our human condition, so I felt worn thin when guilt led to self-destruction. There is a lot to be said for showing the downside of human weakness, but—deep sigh—I need some hope as well. Perhaps the next book will be both insightful...and uplifting. I sure hope so.
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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
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Other books in the series

The Master of Hestviken (5 books)
  • The Axe (The Master of Hestviken, #1)
  • In the Wilderness (The Master of Hestviken, #3)
  • The Son Avenger (The Master of Hestviken, #4)
  • Olav Audunszoon op Hestviken
“And it was most commonly by a man’s own cowardice that the Devil could entice him into his service—because the man was afraid God might demand too much of him—command him to utter a truth that was hard to force through his lips, or to abandon a cherished delight without which he believed himself not strong enough to live: gain or welfare, wantonness or the respect of others. Then came the old Father of lies and caught that man’s soul with his old master lie—that he demanded less of his servants and rewarded them better—so long as it lasted. But now Olav himself had to choose whether he would serve in one army or in the other.” 1 likes
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