The Faithful Wife

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By Sigrid Undset

The Faithful Wife is a marriage story. For sixteen years, Sigurd and Nathalie have been perfectly happy, enjoying good jobs and a comfortable living situation, and free of the duties of parenthood. Their marriage, in a word, conforms quite nicely to turn-of-the-century progressive ideals. This conventional tranquility is shattered by Sigurd’s quiet declaration of infidelity. Devastated, Nathalie stays true to her broadminded and tolerant values, resigning her claim to her husband and accepting the legally directed path of separation and eventual divorce. As the story unfolds, Nathalie finds—for all her education and material independence—that the bond of marriage is not so easily dissolved and that faithfulness yet has its part to play.

Some people are faithful, Nathalie, because faithfulness is what they are in love with…

In the hands of a lesser author than Sigrid Undset, the story of Sigurd and Nathalie could easily become the stuff of cheap propaganda. Instead, with the unpretentious authority and modest genius typical of her vision, Undset makes The Faithful Life a psychologically compelling and distinctly believable rendering of a tale as old as time.

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Sigrid Undset (1882–1949) was a Norwegian novelist and essayist and a convert to Catholicism. Her work is renowned for its realism and poignancy, and she is best known for her three-volume novel Kristin Lavransdatter. Her other works include the novels The Wild Orchid and The Burning Bush and the historical study Saga of Saints. In 1928, Undset was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.