Ted Gioia at The Honest Broker:
Sigrid Undset was an unlikely literary star. Modernist themes were on the ascendancy in those days, but she wanted to write medieval romances. So at night, after work, she researched her subject, studying the sagas, old ballads, and chronicles of the Middle Ages.
You might say she lived in the past. Or in a fantasy world of her own creation. But Undset wanted to deal with these kinds of tales in a brutally realistic manner. She started writing stories where, in her own words, “everything that seems romantic from here—murder, violent episodes, etc. becomes ordinary—comes to life.” Her first novel was rejected by publishers. But her second book got noticed—and caused a scandal. The opening line announced: “I have been unfaithful to my husband.”
more here. (via The Book Haven)