Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
Translated by Tina Nunnally
Penguin Classic, New York, 2005
Bought used at local bookstore.
Kristin Lavransdatter, written in three parts by the Nobel prize-winning Norwegian author Sigrid Undset, is a historical novel that follows the life of a woman in fourteenth century Norway. We first meet Kristin when she is seven, travel up to the mountain pastures with her father. Her best friend, Arne, travels with them.
As they came over the ridge, the wind rushed towards them and whipped through their clothes-it seemed to Kristian that something alive which dwelled up there had come forward to greet them. The wind gusted and blew as she and Arne walked across the expanse of moss. The children sat down on the very end of the ledge, and Kristin stared with big eyes-never had she imagined the world was so huge or so vast.
The first part of the novel, The Wreath, follows Kristin through her childhood and adolescence. We see Kristin first as a beloved daughter, and member of a large extended family. I enjoyed her relationship with her parent’s and family friends and felt empathy when she is stricken by loss.
We then see Kristin as a young women struggling between guilt and pleasure. She refuses her arranged marriage and finally “marries for love” but, in her own eyes, Kristin is a “fallen women”, she has given in to passion before marriage and it is clear she will suffer for it.
I found it difficult reading about Kristin’s struggles with quilt and her passions for the man she falls in love with. It is a melodramatic, overwrought presentation.
I do feel Undset has created a world very like the one that actually existed in Northern Europe in the 1300’s. The intrusion of the church into the pagan world view, the poverty, the struggles for land and wealth between families, and the place of women in that patriarchal society are all clearly drawn. I am fascinated by the growing power of the Catholic church and the church’s consolidation of wealth and power. Undset’s descriptions of the land, the people and their daily life are quite beautiful, some almost mystical. I find I am more interested in the historical aspects of this book than in the main character, Kristin Lavransdatter.
It will be interesting to follow Kristin’s life through the rest of this book. I am very curious about other readers thoughts.
Jason at 5 Squared
Richard at Caravana de recuerdos
Emily at Evening All Afternoon
softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts
Valerie at Life Is A Patchwork Quilt
Frances at Nonesuch
Jill at Rhapsody In Books
Lena at Save Ophelia
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books
E.L. Fay at This Book and I Could Be Friends