The novel describes the development of the site at Sellanraa from primitive smallholding to fully working farm.
Isak is the novel’s main character, and the description of the taciturn man’s experiences of work, love and old age are done with empathy and pathos. At Isak’s side stands Inger, with whom he has two sons. The third child, a daughter, is born, like Inger herself, with a harelip and she kills it at birth. When Inger returns to Sellanraa after serving her prison sentence the conflict between town and country becomes clear.
With its social criticism and its questioning of civilisation in the shape of industrialisation, urbanisation and the decline of values the novel touched a nerve in post-war Europe. Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1920 for Growth of the Soil.