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The Son Avenger

(The Master of Hestviken #4)

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  337 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Powerfully written and filled with magnificent vignettes of the daily life of a medieval estate, 'The Son Avenger' suggests a Greek tragedy whose vision of fate coexists with a Christian sense of suffering and forgiveness. And in the somber, twilight figure of 'Olav the Bad, ' Undset has created an antihero as moving as Oedipus or Lear. ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 24th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1926)
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Father Nick
Good Lord.... it's left me crushed. Olav and the destruction and misery he sows is one of the most fascinating and memorable characters I've ever come across in literature. I find myself wanting to pray for him at Mass, like I'd heard the tragic story of my taciturn grandfather for the first time. Except he never existed beyond Undset's imagination--and now mine.

I won't say more. This, friends, is literature.
Incredibly beautiful. I forced myself to take it slow through this final book in The Master of Hestviken series. This book is so raw and takes the reader through the end of both Olav's and Eirik's life. I was pleased to see the progression of Eirik's character and how he understood his life and his father's life. Excellent conclusion to a beautiful series. I will reread this series. ...more
Brian Reynolds
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
The fourth volume is a satisfying conclusion to the 1000 page epic story of Olav the “Master.” I did enjoy that this series focused on a male character since a female had already been done so well in Kristin L. Except for a brief time in the third volume, I always found the series compelling. Although I am not a religious person, I find the characters’ religiousness and how it affects their actions, especially as it contrasts with their more primal urges, to be fascinating and true to the times. ...more
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
so much more happens with a larger cast of characters in this final chapter of the Hestviken saga that it's not as slow a read as the earlier books.
Impressive how Undset manages to make even the wretched Eirik sympathetic.
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is a gift. I have never read a better story of human sin and God's providential love.

Like her better-known masterpiece, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Master of Hestviken follows the protagonist (Olav Audunsson) through a lifetime and is matched but not exceeded in scope by classics like War & Peace or Les Miserables. Volume one deals with youth stepping into human responsibility and, with it, the tragic perpetration of grave evil; volume two sees life lived in maturity, well and badly; volume th
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An astonishingly mature and sympathetic exposition of the way in which the (unforgiven) sins of the fathers find their way into a second and third generation. Undset has all of Hugo's knack for the particular and historical elements of human existence, and all of Dostoevsky's sense for the universal and spiritual; all of Dostoevsky's sensitivity to the depravity of man's nature and its need for mercy, combined with all Hugo's confidence that providence works through and not only in spite of that ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The conclusion of the story. I just could not put this series down until finished. Superb writing. I love how it ends... without anyone knowing the truth but God.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
© 1930. Last book in the Master of Hestviken series. Olav ages and declines, and the younger people take over his responsibilities. This book contains love, marriage, murder and revenge in unexpected ways as each character's story unwinds and concludes. ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a complicated and confounding story of this man. But such a rich text, so real and full of intricate details of his inner and outer world. Amazing.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Really good, interesting, and engaging book, but not the masterpiece that is Kristenlavensdottr.
Fr Jon
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The wages of sin; the effects of Olav's long-unshriven sin on his life and that of his family. Beautiful scenes at the end. ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This series was excellent (my rating and review stands for all 4 books). The author was able to channel a degree of saga-esque prose while also examining Christian faith and the stain of sin from a more modern perspective. On top of that, it had excellent action, extraordinarily complex and well-examined characters, and a consistency that most tetrologys cannot maintain. I look forward to Kristin Lavransdatter a great deal, as it is supposed to be the superior of the two epics.
The concluding volume of The Master of Hestviken, this book follows Olav and his children through the last years of his life, and the denouement of his estrangement from both his family and God. This book is perhaps one of the better volumes of the series, on par with the first; in many ways it is really Eirik's (his son) story as much as Olav's; the irresponsible, untruthful and overly fanciful young man really comes into his own, an honorable, respectable and very noble young man. After the wo ...more
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The conclusion of THE MASTER of HESTVIKEN is satisfying, although the decisions of the generations lead them into similar outcomes in their quest to live within the limitations of their own skin. The thread of drama woven throughout all four volumes is Auden Audensson, The Master of Hestiviken's, struggle to reconcile the tug o' war going on his heart and soul over his allegiance to and responsibility towards the child of his wife, of whom he is not the father, the son who is both like his fathe ...more
Tom Johnson
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I will be measuring other works of fiction against this final book of Sigrid Undset's tetralogy for a long time - profoundly written with bold strokes in the style of the saga - if you are of a sentimental nature keep tissue handy as the ending does justice to Sigrid's intricate storytelling - oddly enough today my copy of INSIDE THE GATE Sigrid Undset's Life at Bjerkebaek arrived from Norway (difficult book to find and expensive but there appears to be dearth of biographical information on Sigr ...more
Mark Werderitsch
Part IV moves faster than II or III

The fourth part of The Master of Hestivken moves at a much quicker pace than the previous two installments. The translation remains a problem, all four novels in their English versions using very dated language. But this installment has more characters and enough incidents to keep the pace up to an acceptable level. One section at the end consists of the lengthy and not very interesting religious ruminations of Olav, the main character, as he wrestles with a th
John O'Brien
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The glorious and dramatic finale of the tetralogy, in which Olav's daughter marries and his son Erick tries a few different vocations. The sins of Olav's past erupt, however, in the vagaries of his children's lives. By the end, we see a mixture of justice and mercy, of partial redemption, and we strive to identity the thread of grace slowly burning away at the intransigence of ancient sin. It's more dramatic than the previous books, and contains surprise turns at a surprising pace. Undset's typi ...more
Maurisa Mayerle
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While not as popular as her medieval Norse saga Kristen Lavransdatter, The Master of Hestviken is a must read for Catholics interested in medieval Norwegian history. Themes touching on everyday Catholic medieval life run throughout the series. It is one of my favorites by Undset and one I will read again and again.
A.K. Frailey
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Of the series, I think this is the best. I almost didn't read it because I wasn't sure I could handle the psychological trauma of more overwhelming, dysfunctional family guilt. But this book moved the characters into real grace and healing, very inspirational. ...more
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This was the final installment of "The Master of Hestviken" series by Undset, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Norway in the 14th century is the setting, and the book completes the saga of the family of Olav Audonsson. ...more
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Just finished this series. I read the Kristin Lavransdatter series in high school and loved it. This series is just as gripping. It's fascinating to read about Old Norway with the clash of the old Viking ethics and the newer Christian beliefs and culture. ...more
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just posted a review of sorts. I'm sure it'll take much longer for me to flesh out my thoughts on the books!
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved the whole series. LOVED.
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Christine Smith
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Oct 17, 2020
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May 28, 2018
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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

Other books in the series

The Master of Hestviken (5 books)
  • The Axe (The Master of Hestviken, #1)
  • The Snake Pit (The Master of Hestviken, #2)
  • In the Wilderness (The Master of Hestviken, #3)
  • Olav Audunszoon op Hestviken

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