Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
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.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1926

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sigrid Undset

114 books635 followers
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 her medieval novels, including the trilogy about Kristin Lavransdatter. This trilogy has been translated into more than 80 languages and is among the world’s most read novels.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
214 (58%)
4 stars
107 (29%)
3 stars
44 (11%)
2 stars
3 (<1%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Father Nick.
200 reviews68 followers
December 1, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
1,012 reviews
March 6, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Isabella Leake.
63 reviews
February 20, 2023
Library drama! Bibliomation treachery! Someone recalled my Master of Hestviken library book when I expected I'd get to renew it!

In consequence, I ended up purchasing the fourth volume and taking a hiatus from the tetralogy until it arrived. I'm very glad to have finished the whole book now: at over 1000 pages, it was a big undertaking, and sometimes (like most big undertakings) required a lot of effort to continue.

The last installment closes out Olav's life, but the middle portion of the volume is told from his son's perspective. This seemed at first glance like either a copout or a red herring, but it does mirror the switch of perspective from Olav to Ingunn in the first volume. It's true, I was fascinated to see things from the point of view of someone so different in temperament from Olav, and it was a real pleasure to see his son become such a stable adult, good farmer, and devoted Christian -- and even, for a brief time, to experience monastic life with him.

The story wraps up in a way that may be sensational or may be profound -- I can't decide -- or maybe both together.

Taken as a whole, I think The Master of Hesviken (or Olav Audunsson in the more recent translation) is a splendid book. Looked at separately, the latter two volumes aren't as fine as the first two.

I'm sure Tiina Nunnally's new translation is superb, but I have to say I really enjoyed the old-timey translation by Arthur G. Chater.

I think the cover illustrations for these paperback volumes are pretty lovely, with a sort of pre-Raphaelite style that suits the novels well. I was delighted to find that they were done by an artist I know, Kinuko Craft, who has produced some lavishly illustrated fairytale picture books.
Profile Image for Brian E Reynolds.
263 reviews40 followers
July 26, 2020
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. I enjoy examinations of such issues even in more modern books such as The End of the Affair.
With its clearer translation, I did enjoy the Kristin L. series more than this one. However the more archaic language of the Master series translation was, truthfully, not as much of a hindrance as I would have thought, It may be that I preferred the Krisdtin story since it my first Undset. The surprise I experienced at how much I enjoyed it certainly enhanced the pleasure of the reading experience.
The Master series does more successfully portray the second generation characters. The daughter is an interestingly drawn and complex, though secondary, character. The last volume even centers more around the ‘son avenger’ Eirik than it does Olav, the Master at the center of the overall series. In this book, Eirik is fleshed out and is a more complex and successful person than anticipated, although I was slightly disappointed in the end of Eirick’s story.
As with Kristin L. I found great pleasure while immersed in middle age Norway. I will read more Undset.
23 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2014
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 three watches Olav draw near to but decline the chance to repent for his youthful crime; and volume four shows him growing old in his sins, slowly crushing the humanity and love of God that had drawn him to repentance, and the powerful work of God's mercy upon him and his household nevertheless, where a kindness also done in his youth and often regretted becomes the means of his salvation.

Undset masterfully portrays people living their lives with careful planning, sometimes successful and sometimes undone by chance. Like the people we meet every day, the characters are loveable and frustrating. And over all hangs the mercy of God and the mystery of good and evil.
Profile Image for April.
109 reviews18 followers
October 12, 2021
Sigrid Undset is said to have considered this work finer than her Nobel prize winning Kristin Lavransdatter. I agree. The 2nd book (The Snake Pit) was extremely tormented and I wasn't sure if I could continue the series, but I was rewarded for my perseverance. I don't want to spoil the plot, but I found the ending to be really beautiful.
Profile Image for Tori Thompson.
23 reviews5 followers
June 26, 2022
#3 was so-so, but she stuck the landing. Beautiful reflection on many of the same themes as Kristin Lavransdatter like generational effects of sin and refusal to confess, redemption, and marriage but with a focus on two male characters, father and son. The image of Eirik walking Olav's metaphorical untended fields and finding the one healthy stalk to harvest 💔
Profile Image for Paul.
308 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2021
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.
Profile Image for BiblioBelle.
18 reviews
May 18, 2022
The Master of Hestviken series is a bit more repetitive and, in places, tedious than Unset's Kristin series, but still a masterpiece by any measure. It is Greek tragedy comes to Norway. Don't expect it to put you in a good mood, but you will be enriched. I've read both series twice and could easily start all over again. BUT...if I ever do, I'll definitely be making a family tree chart for myself in order to keep track of how everyone is related to one another. Everyone seems to be a cousin or an uncle. It gets complicated. Worth the effort.
Profile Image for Jenny.
10 reviews3 followers
June 30, 2015
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 brokenness. Undset is an absolute master of the human spirit.
Profile Image for Eileen.
459 reviews14 followers
July 20, 2020
© 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.
74 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2021
Oh such great attention to the human condition.I ‘ve reread her books so often to fully discover her analysis of the nature of evil(sin some would say ) and Olav has to be one character I feel like giving a thorough shaking to wake up to his situation
Profile Image for Lisa.
406 reviews14 followers
April 11, 2018
Really good, interesting, and engaging book, but not the masterpiece that is Kristenlavensdottr.
Profile Image for Fr Jon.
33 reviews
March 12, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Elsie.
89 reviews
October 6, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Rich.
Author 2 books4 followers
January 14, 2022
I suppose they’re a little slow, but I really enjoyed this series.
Profile Image for Debra.
703 reviews6 followers
October 19, 2022
Loved this final book. It was jam packed with twists and turns and resolutions and endings. Lots of endings. God is good, even when we are not. Mercy abounds.
Profile Image for Bill.
54 reviews20 followers
March 6, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Michael.
444 reviews20 followers
February 5, 2016
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 woman he wishes to marry dies, Eirik decides to become a monk, and joins a monastery. Within a year, he realizes that the calling is not for him, and returns home a new man, tempered by the discipline he has undergone. He takes the farm in hand, becomes active in his community, and even settles down to marry — in an extremely unforeseen yet ultimately very pleasing way. Olav himself finally has his moment of catharsis when he, driven by tragedy at home, is finally able to confess his sin; yet it comes in a way in which he is not ultimately able to enjoy the benefit of it. At the end of the book, all the character arcs are resolved in a bittersweet yet extremely satisfying way. Undset here, as always, ably evokes the sense of time and place of her subject, and the reader feels as if he not only walks in medieval Norway, but breathes its air. Undset has very quickly become one of my favorite authors of all time, and though I liked Kristin Lavransdatter slightly better, The Master of Hestviken was a memorable experience, a must-have for lovers of medieval or Scandinavian fiction, or even of just a plain good, character-driven story.
Profile Image for Tom Johnson.
397 reviews22 followers
August 14, 2012
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 Sigrid's life written in English. I felt a need to know more about this amazing woman. For those interested the book can be ordered through http://www.aschehoug.no/fakta/histori... ... be forewarned, I went to CONTROL PANEL, disabled the POPUP BLOCKER, set SECURITY to non-existent - only then was I able to complete the transaction)
123 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2015
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 father (heredity) and the father who claims him as his own (environment). Both are characters who attract and repel. Their struggle becomes the reader's struggle. Reading the four volumes of the HESTVIKEN saga, as challenging as it is to read, has been one of the satisfying reading experiences I ever had.
Profile Image for Mark Werderitsch.
42 reviews1 follower
April 2, 2016
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 thirty year old moral dilemma that is important to his character but come across as rather of small importance to the plot.
All in all, I cannot recommend this tetrology. It is mainly slow moving and very little actually takes place.
Profile Image for John O'Brien.
62 reviews51 followers
July 20, 2017
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 typical richness of lush description of locale and the inner movements of the psyche and heart are on full display, bringing the series to a satisfactory close.
Profile Image for Maurisa Mayerle.
94 reviews2 followers
October 28, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Sonja.
75 reviews
October 20, 2008
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.
120 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2015
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.
Profile Image for A.K. Frailey.
Author 25 books69 followers
October 17, 2020
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.
23 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2008
This was the best of all the volumes of this book. Fabulous! I think of it often.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.