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. With their parents dead and their brothers all gone to America, the sisters have resigned themselves to a simple life tied to the land and to the ghosts of those who have departed.
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.
Oleanna was short-listed in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom novel competition.
Where to buy
The World of Oleanna
Confessions of an Avid Reader Q&A
Into the Writer's Study
Layered Pages interview
Oh, for the Hook of a Book! interview
Reading the Past interview
Sir Read-A-Lot interview
The Maiden's Court interview
The Lit Bitch interview
Unabridged Chick interview
Unusual Historicals Q&A
Helen Hollick Guest of the Month
Historical Tapestry: Books of a Lifetime
Reading the Past guest post: Norwegian History Primer
Royalty Free Fiction: The Genesis of Oleanna
So Many Books, So Little Time guest post: bunad
Stories of Serendipity: Writing Oleanna
The World of Oleanna
19th Century Norwegian Emigration to the U.S.
Beer Traditions in Norway
Bunad: the Folk Dress of Norway
Norwegian Nationalism and Folk Art
Norwegian Folk Art: Rosemaling
Norwegian Folk Art: Weaving
Norse Folk Tales
Oleanna Cover Artist Adelsteen Normann
Patronymic Naming Patterns
Setting the Scene, Jølster: Part 1, Part 2
Skål! The History of Akevitt and the Art of the Toast
The Supernatural in Norwegian Folk Life
Women's Suffrage in Norway, 1905
What Readers Are Saying
"When this book ended, I contemplated flipping back to the start in order to begin again. I absolutely didn't want to leave the characters I had come to like so much...There's elegant restraint in how Rose articulates love and loss, passion and madness, the rhythm of farm life, the quietude of rural Norway. In this book, I saw shades of both Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather...Even if you aren't typically a historical fiction fan, consider this novel -- it's a wonderful snapshot of a place and a time set in tradition but uprooted by enormous transition. A story of ordinary women, unique and astounding in their own way, that will charm and captivate."
"This is a novel of quiet depth that evokes strong imagery; it is a story that is stark and humble and at the same time, finely drawn. The awe-inspiring scenery, the backbreaking work, and, at the same time, the appeal of and sense of belonging the women feel for their home are brightly painted through the author’s judicious use of language. A beautiful story."
Historical Novels Review
"I was touched by this book, by its very poignant starkness. As I wrote in a twitter feed: 'Oleanna: a gentle tale with quiet depth, atmospherically stark yet richly detailed like the culture and people of Norge herself. Beautiful.' The prose was simple yet expressive; no fancy writing gimmicks or extraneous details, but every word was carefully chosen...Overall, I recommend Oleanna. I truly enjoyed this tale and still experience flashbacks of some of the scenes from the book."
Andrea Connell, The Queen's Quill Review
"Oleanna by Julie K. Rose is quite simply a beautifully written book. The story was inspired by the author’s great-great aunts and takes place in Norway in 1905. This novel paints such a vivid picture of life at this time in history and you feel drawn in from the very first page. You feel the hardships, love, loss, loyalty and family that flow from the pages of this book all the while feeling haunted by the shadows of ghosts past. I don’t often turn the last page of a book and want to go right back to the beginning but that’s how this novel has made me feel with all the beautiful passages and the quiet but deep and touching tale."
Peeking Between the Pages
"Oleanna is women's historical fiction at its finest. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and highly recommend it as a fascinating read giving insight into a lesser known country and period in history. 5 stars."
Great Historical Fiction
"Julie Rose is a talented writer who deserves a wider audience. Oleanna is based in part on a distant relative and her character is crafted with care and intelligence. There is a great deal of deep thinking and emotional turmoil weaved through the main plot and the story will stay with with you long after you have finished the book. I would urge my male followers to read "Oleanna", even if they would initially dismiss it as a novel aimed at the female market, because the writing is exceptional and proves that independent writers are equally as good, if not better, than those in mainstream publishing."
Stuart MacAllister, Sir Read-a-Lot, Historical Novels Review Independent Books Editor
"To say I was impressed with the novel is an understatement. I was irresistibly drawn to the characters and always left guessing. Their actions were always unpredictable, holding my fascination, keeping me turning the pages to find out what they would do next. This novel abounds with haunting emotion, sadness, and ultimate triumph."
"One of this novel's greatest strengths is Rose's lovely prose, which is particularly striking when describing the setting. Indeed, it is not difficult to envision the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the fjordland as one reads this novel...Oleanna is recommended to all readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in reading about a time and place not generally featured in the genre."
Confessions of an Avid Reader
"Oleanna is a fabulous character. She's strong but personable and definitely the sort of character that you find yourself rooting for...Historical fiction lovers will eat this book up! 4.5/5 stars."
A Bookish Affair
"Oleanna is a novel that will slowly seep into your subconscious as you read it, provoking at first angst, frustration, and emotional sadness that will leave you breathless, then giving you encouragement and strength as you draw fortitude from the cast of characters that will most certainly stay with you long after you finish the book."
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
"...Oleanna is more than enough to carry the story on her own, the setting is fresh and inspiring, and the love story is both tender and tumultuous. I was also very impressed with Ms. Rose's ability to write honestly and naturally and yet so evocatively that it verges on poetic. And her author's note at the end cinched it for me with an old letter that brought tears to my eyes, a sweet homage to the natural magic of the land that had such a hold on Oleanna. Oleanna was a very different read for me, and very satisfying, and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a change of pace in historical fiction."
Let Them Read Books
"Oleanna is written with beauty in lyrical prose. It is an intense story of a woman who faces her ghosts, her true desires, struggles to have trust where none has existed before and to allow herself the freedom to choose. This historical fiction novel is an indepth study of an woman who outwardly lives a simple life, but owns a complicated heart. I especially found this novel enticing as it was based on a time and place in history which I’ve not seen explored before. Highly recommended."
Darlene Williams Historical Fiction Novel Review
"I was astonished at the breathtaking use of setting! Norway sounds absolutely stunning! The flourishing landscapes, forest, and lake all drew me in and made me feel like I was reading about a place both foreign and familiar at the same time. But the novel isn’t just about a refreshing setting, it’s a novel about love, loss, and a woman’s journey to find peace within herself...You do not want to pass up this sweeping novel!"
The Lit Bitch
"I am always curious about historical fiction novels set in countries that I am less familiar with. When I found out that Oleanna was set in Norway at the beginning of the last century I just couldn't resist it. I closed this story with a satisfied sigh...I really enjoyed Julie K. Rose's writing style and how she made characters and landscape come alive. 4.5/5 stars."
"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...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."
So Many Books, So Little Time
"Reading Oleanna was like taking a breath of fresh air. Julie has crafted a compelling story that takes place in Norway in 1905 and evokes a strong tie between a family and everyday life of the farm they work and live on. She also creates a strong sense of place and culture that blends beautifully with the story."
"We are with Oleanna, we see the others through her eyes, and feel them with her emotions, but it is her story. She is afraid and also coming alive with every page of the story. The imagery was unbelievable! I could almost feel the cold Norwegian air, even see my breath as Oleanna and I sat around a fire...This is a story about Oleanna coming to terms with herself, and it was a pleasure to be with her on her journey. I would indeed recommend this book. I haven't read anything at all about Norway at the turn of the century until this book, and the author represented the fear and excitement of change so well. Very good read. "
McArthur Book Reviews
"Rose brings a time of historic change to life through passionate characters and lush prose. Oleanna is a true labor of love."
Heather Domin, author of The Soldier of Raetia and Allegiance
"A magnificent journey to the past; Rose captures turn of the century Norway as if having walked the very steps Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth trod running the family farm."
Anna Scott Graham, author of The War on Emily Dickinson
"Oleanna is as insular and beautiful a novel as the Norway of the early twentieth century in which it is set. Like all good stories, Oleanna is about many things, and this is a story not only of one young woman's experiences, but also of change, the consequences of our decisions, and loss and grief. The novel tells a compelling tale that concludes in hope and the power of the place we call home. Highly recommended. "
V.E. Ulett, author of Captain Blackwell's Prize
"...in the genius in Rose's plotting and in her use of Norway's history, her wonderful descriptive settings, and likeable characters that have led me to the conclusion that Rose is indeed a gifted writer. I hope we'll be hearing more from her."
Carla Danziger, author of Hidden Falls