Laura Kieler: Ibsen’s Nora

Portrait of woman Henrik Ibsen based Nora Helmer on

Ever since I first read Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, I’ve been fascinated by the character Nora Helmer. There’s something so real and immediate about her, it’s uncanny. She’s beautiful, warm-hearted and charming, but also manipulative and vain. She appears flighty and dithering, then in the next moment she’s secretly solving family problems. She’s so complex, so layered, it’s as if Ibsen knew someone like Nora and was trying to pin her to the page. In fact, he did know someone like Nora – a charming and dynamic young Norwegian named Laura Petersen. He met her eight years before… 


The Magic of Gift-Giving

Scandinavian, Christmas, books, chocolate, norwegian-Americans, Dolls House, Nora Helmer

In my novel Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House, my heroine Nora Helmer ends up spending a winter on the harsh Minnesota prairie helping care for a family of Norwegian immigrants. They settle on a very poor farm, and struggle to gather hay and make improvements before the snow comes. By Christmas, the family is facing its first holiday without their mother, who died just as they started their immigration journey in the spring. There are few stores nearby and even fewer people. It’s a long way from Nora’s former cozy apartment in Kristiania with a Christmas tree lit… 


Nora and Solvi, the Movie

dollshouse, henrikibsen, norwegian americans

The actress Jane Fonda recently commented in an interview in the New York Times that she would like to play Nora, the famous heroine from Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Nora, of course, is also the heroine of my novel, Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House. When friends saw Fonda’s comment, several of them fired off emails: “Send Fonda your book! She wants to play Nora!” In the New York Times piece, Fonda admitted she had played Nora once before, in a 1973 film directed by Joseph Losey. But, as she told the Times, “I didn’t dig deep… 


Essay Questions

Henrik Ibsen, Doll's House, Norwegian Americans

I had the privilege recently of talking with a group of British high school students who were studying Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Their teacher, a wonderfully literate young man, invited me to speak because he thought my book Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House could help his students better understand the historical and literary context of Ibsen’s play, something they would need to write about during their upcoming A-level exams. As an English-teacher-wannabe, I loved this idea. The teacher sent me a list of essay questions and suggested I pick several to discuss. I wasn’t sure I… 


The Weight of Creative Work

Henrik Ibsen, Searching for Nora, Norwegian History, Norwegian Immigration

Whenever I give a book talk about my novel Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House, eventually every group gets to the important question: Are you working on your next book? If so, when will it be out? Some people ask if I’m writing a sequel to Searching for Nora, and – if so – can I share some tantalizing hints about what happens to Solvi and Rikka and Ivar and Bobby? Surely they find each other in America, they say, looking at me hopefully, as if this suggestion might prime my creative pumps. Others ask if I’m working on… 



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