by Odell M. Bjerkness
Readers interested in Norway’s history and monarchy will find this book fascinating. It chronicles the early life of Norway’s King Harald as told through journals kept by Inga Berg who was Prince Harald’s nurse at Skaugum, the royal family’s estate in Asker near Oslo, the first 18 months of Prince Harald’s life.
Normally one could find journals of an unknown person mundane especially when they cover such a short time period, but Berg’s “nephew in America,” Odell Bjerkness, has created an engaging book that pulls together the history of the monarchy, the many changes occurring in Scandinavia over the past 100 years, the political climate in Norway from 1900 through WW II, and how these events impacted the Berg/Bjerkness families in both America and in Norway.
It is perhaps the layout of the book that brings this history to life. Bjerkness includes pages from Berg’s journals in their handwritten form along with English translations and he supplements these texts with over 100 photos, newspaper articles, maps and charts listing royal lineage as well as the daily amounts of milk consumed by Lillebror, the name fondly bestowed upon the prince by his two older sisters. Appendices, often ignored by readers, are truly an interesting part of this new work of nonfiction.
An insight that becomes clear to the reader is how the monarchy has established a close relationship to the people of Norway, and how Norwegians have reciprocated this fondness. The author himself, though Norwegian-American, plays a major role in American relations with Norway today. Odell M. Bjerkness, now of Edina, MN and Professor Emeritus of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, was the executive director of Concordia’s Language Villages and May Seminars Abroad programs for many years. (He was also my “boss” the ten years I directed Skogfjorden, the Norwegian Language Village). Bjerkness remains active in Scandinavian-American circles, and in 1982 he received the St. Olav Medal for his work promoting Norwegian-American relations. The medal was bestowed upon him by King Olav V, Lillebror’s father and Nanny Aunt Inga’s ultimate employer.