Oleanna by Julie K. Rose is an Story of Love, Loss, and Humility: Review and Interview

There is so much in today’s post about this novel of Norway in 1905, Oleanna, that I’ve provided a short content list. Don’t miss out on the interview, it’s a must read for those interested in culture and history, as well as writing it. And it’s certainly a book you’ll want to win.

  • Review of Oleanna, by Julie K. Rose
  • Giveaway of Oleanna
  • Interview with Julie K. Rose, including a family Norwegian Waffle Recipe!
  • Information the book and author

Oleanna, Review~

OleannaOleanna 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.

Haunting and ethereal, drawing on a spiritual oneness with the land, this book takes you to a small farm by a picturesque lake, much like you might see in a famous landscape painting of the mountains of Norway.  But Oleanna, and what’s left of her small family, have had so much loss and have to work so hard just to survive, that they don’t always view the landscape for what it is.

To us it would be an escape from reality, serene and beautiful, but Oleanna can’t escape the ghosts that haunt the woods, the lake, and rustle with the wind.  She feels trapped, as if nothing else matters but milking the goat, mending the clothes, and other duties important for survival. And love and family, well…everyone always leaves.

This novel starts off with a tempo slow and mournful, like a long goodbye and a mournful funeral, but as Oleanna comes to terms with herself, her needs, wants and desires, the novel ebbs and flows with her emotions and the book quickens. If this wasn’t intentional, or if it was, it certainly worked in connecting me in to the novel, as well as these wonderful women characters.

Rose completely developed her protagonist Oleanna in a way that we can feel ourselves in an emotional journey with her, even as she tries so hard to internalize her emotions as she has been taught. I hope that was Rose’s point, because I felt that as an author Rose was telling us that it’s always better to come to terms with our emotions than to hide them. I also felt that Rose was showing us it’s sometimes important to be content where you are, even if you are adventurous, because life isn’t always greener on the other side. In fact, sometimes on that side you want to get to, those already there want to be where you are. And both can teach and learn from each other.

This novel brings to us the earthly naturalism of the Norwegian countryside, showing us the beauty and the culture of the common farm life, their culture and spirituality, as well as giving us a glimpse of what was happening during the split between Sweden and Norway in 1905. Her novel showed how some in the cities relished their freedom, but had yet to spread word to the countryside, and also gave a nod toward their woman’s suffrage movement. Another point it dealth with quite well is those who emigrated to America, usually to never see their beautiful homeland or family members again. The sacrifice they took in order to start a new life in America was so great that most of us could hardly being to wrap our minds around it. The choice must have been extremely difficult for many.

Overall, the novel Oleanna breathed a haunting, musty waft of words into my head that was a phenomenal tribute to turn of the 2oth Century Norway, but also a testament to strength, endurance, confidence, humility, equality, love, loss and redemption. I will never look at a cluster of birch trees with golden leaves ever the same way again.

Oleanna, Synopsis~

OleannaPublication Date: September 5, 2012
Paperback; 274p
ISBN-10: 1105361411

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.

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.


You can win one (1) print copy of Oleanna, by Julie K. Rose, and it’s open internationally! Just leave a comment with your email either below, on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook, or email me at hookofabook@hotmail.com

Enter no later than 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from the date of this post. For an extra entry, please follow my blog. For two extra entries, please like my new Hook of a Book Facebook page linked above.

Informative Interview with Julie Rose~

Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so delighted to have you join us Julie! How are you?

Julie: I’m fantastic! Thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here.

Erin: I am anxious to learn all about you and your writing so let’s get underway…

Q:  Your historical location in Norway seems unique, are there many novels surrounding Scandinavian countries during the turn of the Century? Why, what or why not?

A:  There are plenty of books set in Scandinavia during the Viking era, the Nobel-prize winning Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy set in mediaeval Norway, a growing number set during WWII, and of course the popular modern Scandinavian crime fiction genre. But I honestly don’t know of any other historical novels set in Norway at the turn of the century; I would love to learn differently. I think (obviously!) it’s a fascinating setting.

Q:  What inspired you to write Oleanna, your novel that takes place in Norway?

A: It all came from an image. I had been struggling with another book that just wasn’t going anywhere, when an image came to me of a woman standing on a mountaintop, her arms wrapped around herself in a protective stance, her long blond hair being whipped by the wind into her face. I came to realize quite soon that this was Norway, and that this was Oleanna, one of my great-grandfather’s sisters, someone whom I’d heard about, but didn’t know much more than that she stayed behind in Norway with her sister when the rest of her family came to America.

Q:  How would you describe Oleanna to readers? What do you hope your readers will take away from your sophomore novel?

A: It is the story of a woman trying to deal with her grief and find her place in the world, when the world is changing in very dramatic way. She has to discover who she is, and what she wants, and discover how she fits into this new world.

I hope readers take away that grief is painful, but it doesn’t last forever, and that grief can be transformative. That the dead only haunt you if you let them.

I also hope they learn a bit about Norway; it’s a fascinating and beautiful country with wonderful traditions.

Q: I imagine this novel is very special to you, since it’s based on family history. How did it feel to create your novel?

A: It was a bit terrifying! I felt very much like I had to do right by them, and do right by Norway. I usually put too much pressure on myself anyway, so this was extra pressure! The themes were also quite personal, so it took quite a bit of time to get the story onto paper.

Q:  What is your writing process like? For instance, do you use an outline or free thought?

A:  I guess my answer is yes. The story will start with an image, a character, or a “what if” question, and a general plot or problem appears. From there, I’ll do some rough outlining and then dive in and see where the story and characters lead me. I’ll pause during the process to see if my rough outline still holds; if not, I’ll re-outline and move on. This will probably happen three or four times. Once I get a first draft done, I’ll let it sit for a few months so I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Generally speaking, I’ll do three or four drafts before I send it out to my trusted critique group, and then probably another three or four drafts after that. My first novel was something like eleven drafts; though Oleanna is the second novel I’ve published, it was the fourth novel I’ve written, and it ended up at seven drafts.

Weirdly, doing family trees is a really important part of the process for me, for all of the books I’ve written. I’ll go back three or four generations; it helps me understand a character, and where they’re coming from. Can you tell I’m a bit of a genealogy geek?

Q:  What were some of your biggest obstacles along your journey?

A:  Having a demanding full-time job is my biggest obstacle. However, one must pay one’s rent, so setting that aside, my biggest obstacle was how close I was to these characters and their journeys, Oleanna particularly. My mom died about six months before I started writing Oleanna, so we charted a course through our grief together—but that meant frequent breaks during the process of the writing.

Q:  How did you conduct your research? How extensive was it?

A:  I was lucky enough to have visited Norway in 2004, so that was a huge piece of the puzzle. Seeing the country first-hand was astounding, not only because it had been this mythical place in my mind for so long, but because the country itself is literally astounding. It is unbelievably beautiful. It also helped to get a good sense of how remote parts of the country still are—so life over 100 years ago would have been even more isolated. I have a number of cultural artifacts from Norway in my own home—weaving and rosemaling, for example—so I was lucky in that all I had to do was wander out into the living room to see an ale bowl. Finally, I did quite a bit of reading, and was particularly impressed with the resources at Project Gutenberg. The Baedeker guides from the early 1900s were really helpful, especially for the sections set in Bergen.

Q: What have been your biggest celebrations as a writer?

A:  Oh gosh. I guess I’d say getting comments from readers.  Doing well in contests has been lovely, but hearing from readers is the coolest part of publishing a book. Hearing from someone that the story moved them, or that they learned something new, absolutely makes my day.

Q:  What do you think the pros and cons are about being an Indie published author?

A:  The biggest pro for me is being able to write about what, when, and where I want. Publishing in this way allows me to follow my interests and muse where they lead.

I’d say the major drawback is lack of distribution and marketing support (including budget). That said, many traditionally published authors don’t really get much marketing support anymore, either. I do wish I had the chance to share Oleanna with more readers.

Q:  I enjoyed reading about the various holidays and traditions on your blog. I’ve long been interested in holidays around the world.  There is something about traditions. What are some of your family traditions (family gatherings, holidays, observances, culture)?

A: Thanks! I loved doing those posts. I remember when I was a kid, one of my very favorite books was a Christmas Around the World book; I loved learning about traditions and cultures even then. I will say my favorite holiday albums are all my Putumayo and National Geographic “Christmas Around the World” CDs.

Our main traditions, like most people, are really focused around the holidays, when I bake like a fiend. My folks also started a tradition—not at all related to being Norwegian but everything to do with having grown up in the ’70s—wherein we have fondue every Christmas Eve.

Q: Part of my mom’s family left England as they were Plantagenet loyalists, taking up residence in Amsterdam. Eventually my descendant was the first of a few men to be deeded what would be New Amsterdam, better known as Manhattan.  But as some of the tree broke off, my mom’s line seemed to keep hold of some of the Dutch traditional culture, primarily food and baked goods.

Has your family passed down any yummy traditions that you could share with us? I’m a big baker myself and love to use vintage recipes, would you have any to share with us?

A:  I’m so glad you asked this! My mom was a fantastic baker, and passed those traditions and that interest along to me. I bake like crazy at the holidays; it’s traditional to have seven different kinds of cookies, so it keeps me busy (but of course I love it). Here’s a link to a post I did over the holidays on the seven kinds of cookies: http://bit.ly/XVcomx

For special occasions, such as birthdays, we like to make Norwegian waffles. I’m sure there are variations, but the recipe passed to me is below; using a heart-shaped waffle iron [link: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/heart-waffle-maker]  is traditional. We put butter and lingonberry jam [link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingonberry_jam] on them (no syrup!), though some slather them with sour cream and lingonberries. We’ve always done them for breakfast, but some folks do them for dessert or a snack.

Norwegian Waffles

5 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cardamom  [NB: very common in Scandinavian baking]
1 cup sour cream
4 tbsp. butter (room temperature)

1.      Beat the eggs and sugar together; I do this by hand, but you can use a hand mixer

2.      Fold in half of the flour, and all of the cardamom, butter, and sour cream

3.      Fold in the remaining flour and mix until smooth.

4.      Pour batter by 1/3 cup onto hot, greased waffle iron.

Serve with butter and lingonberry jam.

I hope you’ll share some of your Dutch recipes!

Erin Comments: We’ll maybe do another post together soon where we can share recipes?

Q:  What family traditions would the people like Oleanna have passed down during the early part of the century?

A: Food traditions for sure, and artistic traditions like weaving, chip carving, and rosemaling. There was a very strong nationalist movement in the 19th century in Norway, as the ruling class realized there was a lot of political currency to cultural traditions. Of course, in the rural and working class areas, those traditions had never really died out, but when they were married to a nationalist, independence-focused movement, they really gained more traction. When Norwegians immigrated in droves to America, most worked very hard to keep the traditions of their homeland alive. I think Oleanna would have been very keen to make sure the knowledge of weaving in particular would be passed down.


Courtesy of site:  http://readingincolfax.blogspot.com/2011/04/this-is-beautiful-painting-on-our-new.html

Q: Are many still observed today? What are some of those that might interest readers? Do any tie-in to your novel?

A: I think it’s been a natural thing in Norway for the traditions to remain alive; in America, there are many Sons/Daughters of Norway lodges, which were established as early as the late 19th century, which work explicitly to maintain those traditions. I would definitely encourage readers to check out the amazing collection at the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa [link: http://vesterheim.org/index.php], and of course try their hands at some of the delicious baked goods that Norwegians, and Scandinavians, are famous for.

Q:  What do you like most about the Scandinavian culture? How do you think it differs from American culture?

A:  I think the sense of equality and humility, which have been the case in Norwegian culture for quite a long time and carry through to today. We strive for equality here, for sure, but the sense of humility is not exactly a hallmark of our culture. Not that this is a bad thing, just different.

Q: I love the blue colors you have everywhere in your brand. From your book cover, to bookmarks, to your website, and even some special pins I saw on your Pinterest page. Is there any significance to the Norwegian culture with the blue, and if not, to you personally?

A: Thank you! I don’t know if there’s an overt significance to blue in Norwegian culture, though it does show up in the flag, and of course in the ever-present water in the lakes, fjords, and sea.  

I love color symbolism, so this question is awesome!

In terms of Oleanna specifically, the cover art has driven everything else. When designing my cover, I selected a painting by Norwegian artist Adelsteen Normann, and licensed it from Bridgeman Art for both my cover and my supporting collateral. It’s a great starting point for so many different pieces, and it makes it easy for me to design a coherent brand.

Plus, blue is my favorite color, so I guess I just created materials that appealed to me subconsciously as well.

Q:  The art from the early days of Sweden/Norway is also very beautiful. We have some of those designs in our Dutch heritage as well.  Why do you feel they have this unique folk feel in their designs? Did you discover anything about it during your research?

A: I think they have that feel because that’s exactly where they came from—the folk. Because of the unique geography of the country, there wasn’t a really strong culture of the elite, and that extended to art. There were of course urban Norwegians who created and enjoyed more “academic” art, both from within and without the country, but it wasn’t the norm as it might be in, say, France. So the local (rural) traditions that had been built up over centuries endured, and then were given prominence during the run-up to independence during the second half of the 19th century.

Q: How does the land and nature come into play in regards to your ancestor’s culture? What about when you were writing your novel?

A: The history of Norway has always been driven by the landscape. Due to the geography of the area (tall mountains, deep fjords, a dearth of arable land, and over 25,000km of coastlines running from 58°N to more than 71°N) it was difficult to create a stable, agriculture-based economy and political structure beyond small kingdoms scattered throughout the country. In later centuries, political and social elites clustered in the urban areas (Bergen and Christiania/Oslo) but much of the cultural tradition was retained (and preserved) in the isolated rural areas.  I also think that the landscape (rugged, beautiful, harsh, isolated) has driven a kind of Norwegian “type” — stoic, nature-loving, and quietly proud.

Q: Do you have any other novel “in progress?” What else do you have on your agenda you’d like to share with us?

A: I do have a couple of works in progress that I’m pretty serious about. One is set in California, and it’s really in its infancy so I won’t say much about it yet. The other is called DIDO’S CROWN and it’s a kind of literary-historical-mystery, set in Tunisia, France, and England in 1935. At the moment, it’s equal parts angst and adventure; we’ll see how it shakes out in the end!

I’d also love to invite readers to the Historical Novel Society Conference this June in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s a wonderfully welcoming conference for readers and writers, with fantastic panels, a book signing event, great featured speakers (Anne Perry, C.W. Gortner, and Steve Perry), a costume pageant, the (in)famous late-night sex scene reading with Diana Gabaldon, and of course lots of time to chat and socialize with fellow historical fiction enthusiasts.

I’ll be on a panel discussing Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Track—discussing the joys of reading and writing somewhat outside the mainstream, focusing on under-represented locations, eras, and relationships. Should be a blast!  http://hns-conference.org.

Q: Finally, how can readers connect with you best?

A: Wherever they are! I’m on all manner of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Blogger), plus my website has a listing of all of my World of Oleanna blog posts and links to guest blogs and interviews: http://www.juliekrose.com.

Erin: Thank you so much for all your time, Julie, and for taking on so many questions for me–especially the personal ones. I appreciate connecting with you today and enjoyed learning about you, your novel, and your culture. I wish you much continued success in the future.

Julie:  Thank you so much! What a wonderfully detailed and thought-provoking series of questions; I’m so grateful for your time!

Julie K. Rose, Biography, In Her Words~

Julie K RoseI’m an author of historic and contemporary fiction, and I’m particularly interested in the intersection of the spiritual and secular, the supernatural and the everyday, the past and the present, and the deep, instinctual draw of the land.

I am a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, current co-chair of the HNS Northern California chapter, and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review. I earned a B.A. in Humanities (SJSU) and an M.A. in English (University of Virginia), and live in the Bay Area with my husband and our cat Pandora. I love reading, following the San Francisco Giants, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is my second novel. The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

For more information on Julie K. Rose, please visit her website.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/oleannavirtualbooktour/
Twitter Hashtag: #OleannaVirtualTour

Oleanna Tour Banner FINAL


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

4 responses to “Oleanna by Julie K. Rose is an Story of Love, Loss, and Humility: Review and Interview

  1. I love your evocative description of this book. Lovely! And the indepth interview.


  2. Norway is a country, that I have always wanted to visit. I love the recipe and hope to try it since I have one of those waffle irons, but never had a recipe. Thanks for the giveaway! denannduvall@gmail.com


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