In an effort to redeem her reputation, Ida Elisabeth imprudently marries her teenage sweetheart, Frithjof. Early in their marriage, she realizes that her charming husband is too irresponsible to support the family and sews dresses to make ends meet. When Frithjof becomes involved with another woman, Ida Elisabeth divorces him.
The single mother moves with her children to a small town. Still young and good looking, the admirably hardworking Ida Elisabeth attracts the attention of a successful lawyer, who possesses the manly virtues that her husband lacked. As she contemplates marrying again, Frithjof, now gravely sick, reenters her life.
Unlike Undset's famous historical novels, which are set in medieval Norway, the story of Ida Elisabeth unfolds in the 1920s. As in Undset's other fiction, however, Ida Elisabeth poignantly illustrates how poor choices affect the course of a person's life and how the suffering endured because of grievous mistakes can become the means by which a love is purified.
Even in her historical novels, the Nobel Prize-winning Undset tackled contemporary themes. With its setting in modern times, Ida Elisabeth examines the difficulties inherent in male-female relationships as they are experienced in contemporary society.
Undset's descriptions of the Norwegian people and countryside coupled with her profound understanding of the human heart won her worldwide literary acclaim. Both are powerfully displayed in this compelling drama about fidelity and forgiveness.