Kristin Lavransdatter: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

Kristin Lavransdatter: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

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Overview

“[Sigrid Undset] should be the next Elena Ferrante.” —Slate

The turbulent historical masterpiece of Norway’s literary master

A Penguin Classic

 
In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.
As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.
With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author—one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds—and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.
 
This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition includes an introduction by Brad Leithauser and features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143039167
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/27/2005
Series: Kristin Lavransdatter Series
Edition description: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
Pages: 1168
Sales rank: 59,744
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.35(h) x 1.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sigrid Undset (1882–1949) was born in Denmark, the eldest daughter of a Norwegian father and a Danish mother. Two years after her birth, the family moved to Oslo, where her father, a distinguished archaeologist, taught at the university. Her father’s interest in the past had a tremendous influence on Undset. She was particularly entranced by the dramatic Old Norse sagas she read as a child, later declaring that her exposure to them marked “the most important turning point in my life.” 

Undset’s first published works—the novel Mrs. Marta Oulie (1907) and a short-story collection, The Happy Age (1908)—were set in contemporary times and achieved both critical and popular success. With her reputation as a writer well-established, Undset had the freedom to explore the world that had first fired her imagination, and in Gunnar's Daughter (1909) she drew upon her knowledge of Norway's history and legends, including the Icelandic Sagas, to recreate medieval life with compelling immediacy. In 1912, Undset married the painter Anders Castus Svarstad and over the next ten years faced the formidable challenge of raising three stepchildren and her own three off-spring with little financial or emotional support from her husband. Eventually, she and her children moved from Oslo to Lillehammer, and her marriage was annulled in 1924, when Undset converted to Catholicism.

Although Undset wrote more modern novels, a collection of essays on feminism, as well as numerous book reviews and newspaper articles, her fascination with the Middle Ages never ebbed, and in 1920 she published The Wreath, the first volume of her most famous work, Kristin Lavransdatter. The next two volumes quickly followed—The Wife in 1921, and The Cross in 1922. The trilogy earned Undset worldwide acclaim, and her second great medieval epic—the four-volume The Master of Hestviken (1925–1927)—confirmed her place as one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers. In 1928, at the age of 46, she received the Nobel Prize in Literature, only the third woman to be so honored.

Undset went on to publish more novels—including the autobiographical The Longest Years—and several collections of essays during the 1930s. As the Germans advanced through Norway in 1940, Undset, an outspoken critic of Nazism, fled the country and eventually settled in Brooklyn, New York. She returned to her homeland in 1945, and two years later she was awarded Norway’s highest honor for her “distinguished literary work and for service to her country.” The years of exile, however, had taken a great toll on her, and she died of a stroke on June 10, 1949.

Brad Leithauser is the author of several novels, four volumes of poetry, and a collection of essays. He is the Emily Dickinson Lecturer in the Humanities at Mount Holyoke College.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In Kristin Lavransdatter (1920-1922), Sigrid Undset interweaves political, social, and religious history with the daily aspects of family life to create a colorful, richly detailed tapestry of Norway during the fourteenth-century. The trilogy, however, is more than a journey into the past. Undset's own life—her familiarity with Norse sagas and folklore and with a wide range of medieval literature, her experiences as a daughter, wife, and mother, and her deep religious faith—profoundly influenced her writing. Her grasp of the connections between past and present and of human nature itself, combined with the extraordinary quality of her writing, sets her works far above the genre of "historical novels." This new translation by Tiina Nunnally—the first English version since Charles Archer's translation in the 1920s—captures Undset's strengths as a stylist. Nunnally, an award-winning translator, retains the natural dialog and lyrical flow of the original Norwegian, with its echoes of Old Norse legends, while deftly avoiding the stilted language and false archaisms of Archer's translation. In addition, she restores key passages left out of that edition, including a sexually explicit love scene and several conversations among the characters that offer crucial insights into their feelings and motivation.

In depicting her country's vanished culture, Undset, like others in the Modernist era, rejected the romantic view of the past prevalent in mid-nineteenth century literature, music, and art—from Tennyson's fanciful retelling of the Arthurian legends,Idylls of the King to Wagner's musical interpretations of Germanic myths to the dreamy paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Her realistic, unvarnished approach, as A.H. Winsnes notes in his biography, Sigrid Undset: A Study in Christian Realism, has led many scholars to call her "The Zola of Middle Ages." Undset's ability to present a meticulously accurate historical portrait without sacrificing the poetry and narrative drive of masterful storytelling was particularly significant in her homeland. Granted independence in 1905 after five hundred years of foreign domination, Norway was eager to reclaim its national history and culture. Kristin Lavransdatter became a touchstone for Undset's contemporaries, and continues to be widely read by Norwegians today. In the more than 75 years since it was first published, it has also become a favorite throughout the world.

When The Wreath first appeared in English, the New York Times hailed it as "strong and dramatic, founded upon those emotions and impulses which belong not to any especial time or country, but to all humanity." Against the background of a society ruled by centuries-old Norse traditions and the strictures of the Catholic Church (first established in Norway in tenth century), Undset tells the story of a headstrong young woman who defies the expectations of her much-beloved father, the lessons of her priest, and conventions of society when she is captivated by a charming and dangerously impetuous man. The courtship of Kristin Lavransdatter and Erlend Nikulaussøn is a far cry from the idealistic romances found in the historical novels of writers like Sir Walter Scott. Although she is betrothed to another man and is living in a convent, Kristin and Erlend manage to escape watchful eyes and give free rein to their love and their sexual impulses. When they are finally allowed to wed, they discover that the repercussions of their rebellious behavior are not easily put to rest.

In The Wife, Undset paints a vivid portrait of a marriage buffeted not only by private passions and recriminations, but by the forces of history. Kristin is determined to create a household and a family life that will mitigate the shame she brought upon herself and her parents. As Undset chronicles Kristin's days as the mistress of Erlend's ancestral estate and the mother of seven sons, she renders the details of everyday life with astounding precision—the eating and sleeping arrangements in both manor houses and humble peasant homes; the risks of childbirth and of raising children; and the social and religious activities that punctuate each week. Erlend's involvement in a plot against an unpopular king brings to life the political intrigues percolating in Scandinavia during the period and captures the strong sense of justice and personal freedom that set Norway apart from most other medieval cultures. The inner lives of the characters are illuminated with the same care—from the painful secrets Kristin's parents harbor to the destructive consequences of Kristin's pride and resentment and of Erlend's petulant refusal to accept his responsibilities.

The Cross finds Kristin returning with her husband and sons to her childhood home after Erlend's narrow escape from the law. Kristin quickly discovers that the community where she was once loved and respected as her father's daughter is not so willing to accept her and her family. The solicitous attention of her brother-in-law brings Kristin much-needed comfort, but even this relationship is fraught with unspoken tensions. Erlend and their sons, scorned as outsiders who arrogantly refuse to adapt to the customs of the region or its people, are bound to one another with an affection so strong that Kristin herself feels excluded. With the willfulness that is both her strength and her weakness, Kristin devotes herself to maintaining the farm and to instilling in her sons a sense of morality and purpose. The Cross unveils the complexities of maternal love, portraying with power and sensitivity the conflicts that arise as Kristin's children forge their own identities. It explores, too, the impact of Christianity on a world still emerging from paganism and, as the Black Plague devastates Europe, the significance of the Church's teachings to people seeking answers to mysteries of life and death, sin and redemption

 


ABOUT SIGRID UNDSET

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) was born in Denmark, the eldest daughter of a Norwegian father and a Danish mother. Two years after her birth, the family moved to Oslo, where her father, a distinguished archaeologist, taught at the university. Her father's interest in the past had a tremendous influence on Undset. She was particularly entranced by the dramatic Old Norse sagas she read as a child, later declaring that her exposure to them marked "the most important turning point in my life."

Undset's first published works—the novel Mrs. Marta Oulie (1907) and a short-story collection The Happy Age (1908)—were set in contemporary times and achieved both critical and popular success. With her reputation as a writer well-established, Undset had the freedom to explore the world that had first fired her imagination, and in Gunnar's Daughter (1909) she drew upon her knowledge of Norway's history and legends, including the Icelandic Sagas, to recreate medieval life with compelling immediacy. In 1912 Undset married the painter Anders Castus Svarstad and over the next ten years faced the formidable challenge of raising three stepchildren and her own three off-spring with little financial or emotional support from her husband. Eventually, she and her children moved from Oslo to Lillehammer, and her marriage was annulled in 1924, when Undset converted to Catholicism.

Although Undset wrote more modern novels, a collection of essays on feminism, as well as numerous book reviews and newspaper articles, her fascination with the Middle Ages never ebbed, and in 1920 she published The Wreath, the first volume of her most famous work, Kristin Lavransdatter. The next two volumes quickly followed—The Wife in 1921, and The Cross in 1922. The trilogy earned Undset worldwide acclaim, and her second great medieval epic—the four-volume The Master of Hestviken (1925-1927) —confirmed her place as one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. In 1928, at the age of 46, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature, only the third woman to be so honored.

Undset went on to publish more novels—including the autobiographical The Longest Years—and several collections of essays during the 1930s. As the Germans advanced through Norway in 1940, Undset, an outspoken critic of Nazism, fled the country and eventually settled in Brooklyn, New York. She returned to her homeland in 1945, and two years later she was awarded Norway's highest honor for her "distinguished literary work and for service to her country." The years of exile, however, had taken a great toll on her, and she died of a stroke on June 10, 1949.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

The Wreath

  • The Wreath is set at a time of transition in Norway: Christianity, which had been introduced in the late tenth century, was spreading, but the older pagan forms of worship and belief lingered. How does Undset's description of Kristin's encounter with the elf maiden [p. 19]—and Lavrans' reaction to it—epitomize the collision of the old and new belief systems? What other examples are there of the family's inability to abandon age-old traditions and superstitions despite their devout Christianity? For instance, what is the significance of Fru Aashild's attempt to cure Ulvhild when the prayers of the parish priest fail to work the miracle Rangfrid longs for?
     
  • Does Kristin acquiesce too readily to her father's selection of Simon as her future husband? Does she agree to the betrothal because she feels genuine affection for Simon or is she primarily motivated by her love and respect for her father? How does Kristin's relationship with Arne deepen your understanding of the social attitudes and assumptions she lives by? Why does Simon's sympathetic and compassionate reaction when her reputation is questioned increase Kristin's ambivalence toward him?
     
  • Discuss Undset's use of elements drawn from medieval ballads, chivalric legends, fairy tales, and other traditional stories in her depiction of Kristin and Erlend's meeting and courtship. What particular motifs do you recognize? What themes, events, or characters represent Christian beliefs? How do these "archetypal scripts" enrich the story for readers? In what ways do Undset's narrative style, her depiction of the natural world, and her language create further links to the past and its storytelling traditions?
     
  • Which one of Kristin's two suitors appeals to you more and why? How do their attitudes about Kristin—and about love and marriage—differ? In what ways are they similar? Are there contradictions between traditional standards of morality and those imposed by the Church? Does Erlend take advantage of Kristin's innocence and inexperience or does she share equal responsibility for initiating their love affair? To what extent does the very secrecy of their relationship strengthen the tie between Kristin and Erlend? Why does Lavrans finally to consent to the marriage? What impact do the pleas—as well as the suggestive comments—of Erlend's noble kinsmen [p. 250] have on his decision? Why does Kristin begin to have doubts after her betrothal to Erlend is announced?
     
  • Kristin, Aashild, and Eline all sacrifice their reputations and moral integrity when they give into their sexual longings. Were their transgressions justified in the light of subsequent events? Do their lovers suffer to the same extent from the condemnation of society and the pangs of conscience? Does Undset's depiction of the consequences of adultery reflect the moral conventions of the time or does it represent a more universal truth?
     
  • The Wife

  • In talking about her heroine, Sigrid Undset said that Kristin's greatest sin was not indulging in sex before marriage, but the sin of pride, which fueled her defiance of the rules she had learned as a child. Does her marriage temper Kristin's tendency to insist on having her own way? Is Erlend, too, guilty of the sin of pride? What do their reactions to Kristin's out-of-wedlock pregnancy indicate about their individual personalities and the likely course of their marriage?
     
  • What function does Gunnulf serve in the novel? Compare his relationship with Kristin to the ones she forms with Brother Edvin and with her parish priests, Sira Eirik and Sira Eiliv. Are Gunnulf's criticisms of Erlend based only on his religious beliefs or are they colored by childhood memories and his own inner conflicts? What do Undset's various portraits of the clergy reveal about religion and spirituality during the Middle Ages?
     
  • Why does Erlend become involved in the plot to remove King Magnus and secure the throne for Prince Haakon? How does his nostalgia for Viking times, when social mobility was linked to the test of battle, affect his judgment and his actions? What does he hope to gain as an individual? In addition to clarifying the political climate in Scandinavia and the rest of northern Europe, does this fictional conspiracy and the political maneuvering it involves provide insights into other aspects of medieval culture and the ideas that shaped it? What light does it shed on the relations between the Church and the state and on the role of each in the lives of ordinary people? Does Undset's description of Norway during the Middle Ages differ from what you know about the period from other readings or history courses? If so, in what ways?
     
  • How do Kristin and Erlend's feelings about one another change in the course of the book? Which partner do you think is more responsible for the deterioration of the marriage and why? What impact does the birth of their children have on each of them and their relationship as husband and wife? Do Kristin's faith—and her search for redemption—help or hinder her as a wife and mother? Is Lavrans' analysis of their marriage [p.236-7] valid or is it colored by his own experiences and beliefs?
     
  • Discuss Kristin's self-recriminations [p. 334-6] after Erlend is arrested in light of your impressions of their marriage. Why does Simon come to Erlend's aid? Are his motivations purely unselfish? What do their conversations at the prison [p.381-2] and after Erlend's release [p.402] reveal about each man? Do you think that Erlend has gained a deeper understanding of himself by the end of the novel?
     
  • The Cross

  • When Kristin and her family move to Jørundgaard, why does she assume all responsibility for running the estate and stand by as Erlend "with chieftainlike calm and dignity lived on her father's manor like a guest?" [p. 26] Does Erlend's acceptance of their misfortune stem from a realistic understanding of the situation (based on the laws and conventions of the time) or is it a reflection of his childish approach to life? How do Kristin's memories of her father and her guilt about the way she treated him influence her feelings about and behavior towards Erlend?
     
  • The correlation between earthly love and divine love is an important theme in late medieval literature. Sex is viewed as an expression of love in God's name and procreation and maternal nurturing as a sacred obligation for women. Discuss the different ways this theme is woven into the story of Kristin and Erlend's marriage, considering both the positive and negative implications.
     
  • The first part of The Cross is entitled "Honor Among Kin." To what extent does Erlend's extreme sensitivity about his own honor and reputation contribute to his downfall? Is he foolishly naïve about the motivations and loyalty of others, as Simon suggests? [p. 99] Why is Simon devastated when he learns of his brothers' involvement in the plot against King Magnus? Does his jealousy of Erlend lead him to be too harsh on himself when he considers his behavior towards Kristin and her family? Which of the two men is truer to the medieval ideal of honor and nobility as it is presented in the novel? Which one more closely embodies your own definition of honor?
     
  • When Erlend eventually leaves the family, why does he make his home in Haugen, where one of the darkest incidents in his life occurred? Is Erlend's suggestion that Kristin join him realistic? Is Kristin's refusal motivated only by concern for her children? What other factors, both emotional and practical, influence her? Would it have been possible for Kristin to find spiritual peace with Erlend? What impact does the choices her sons make have on Kristin as she contemplates her own future? Is there a particular moment that marks Kristin's final understanding of the relationship between the material and spiritual worlds and her willingness to accept God's will wholeheartedly? What is the significance of her decision to donate her wedding ring for masses?
     
  • Kristin Lavransdatter explores many issues that resonate today: women's sexuality; the balance of power between men and women; and the role of religious faith in everyday life. Would you characterize Undset's approach to these subjects as "liberal" or "conservative"? Is Kristin a feminist heroine, striving to balance her career as the hard-working mistress of Husaby and the Jørundgaard and her family obligations? Are the decisions she makes and the values by which she lives her life relevant to contemporary readers?
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    Kristin Lavransdatter: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
    MLucero More than 1 year ago
    In this new translation by Tiina Nunnally of a Nobel Prize winning Norwegian epic, Sigrid Undset's classic evocation of medieval Norway's landscapes, architecture, culture, and society has quickly become one of my favorite books ever. Reading the quiet and effortless prose that is nonetheless steeped in studious observations about characters and society, one becomes completely captivated by another culture in another time. There is a feeling as of walking in a pine grove early on a winter's morning: high, piercing, and haunting. The book explores the life of its title character, Kristin, as she grows into a young maiden in a secluded montane farming village, rebels against her parents' wishes and marries the charming yet irresponsible Erlend Nikulausson, becomes a mother to seven sons, and continuously faces the trials and tragedies of life and the consequences of pride. Exploring the harsh, dramatic, and lush climates, and a people at turns blunt and delicate, simple and intricate, Undset's Norway is filled with courage, community, meaning, and bracing charity that rings of timeless truth and beauty and relevance. It is available in this one-volume deluxe version or separately in its original three volumes, The Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross.
    eulogos More than 1 year ago
    If you haven't read this wonderful book, this new translation is your opportunity. For me it was a reason to read it for a third time. The older translation was written in somewhat archaic language which some found stilted, although I had no problem with it. However a more natural language translation is appropriate since the original was not written in an archaic style. The new translation also contains passages which were inexplicably edited out of the older one. This is the story of one woman's entire life in Norway in the late 1200's, beginning with her childhood on a rural farmstead and ending when she died having caught the plague from those she was nursing. There is a love story, which does not end with a marriage and "happily ever after" but goes on into the struggles many of us are familiar with, of working out a relationship between two imperfect human beings. The story speaks of a mother's love, hopes, and fears for her children as they grow up. It speaks to the experience of growing old, of realizing that there is a new younger generation coming along with its own ideas and ways. There is so much of perennial human experience here. Of course in that time Kristin and everyone in the story are Catholics, but many are no less secular in their concerns than we are today. Kristin herself struggles to make her faith apply to her life. In the end, while it is obvious that she has not found the happiness that she expected to find in her life, she has found joy in the midst of a great darkness in the world. This book is not difficult to read, but it is not a light read either. It is for serious readers and thinkers. It would make a good subject for book club discussions over several sessions. This is a book you will never forget, one whose scenes and characters become part of your interior emotional landscape. I cannot recommend it too highly .
    Peggie More than 1 year ago
    I stumbled upon this book by accident. What a wonderful accident it was! I couldn't put it down. This book is the life story of one woman, her loves, losses, children and friends. Though the story takes place in the 14th century the characters seem like present day people - reminding me of people I have known and in some cases loved. At times the story turns exciting, frustrating, infuriating and lovely - with smooth transitions that entice you on to the next page even when it is the middle of the night. I loved every word!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Where to begin...loved the complexity of the characters, especially Kristen. I will definitely ask my daughter to read this story. The joy and suffering of a mother - timeless, as told in this story. I loved to experience life in the middle ages, where everyday life revolves around the Church and Church calendar. I loved how it dealt with faith and religion differently. It showed hypocracy of the Church without ruining one's true faith (the father is an example of this). As a young mother, it was a tough read too for me. Makes me appreciate life in 2008, but also made me long for a simpler life too, where Faith was not scorned.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Best novel ever. A true classic .this my favorite book . a trilogy and a masterpiece .
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    So happy to see this available in a new translation, and in a new format...First read it as a teenager, and have re-read it over many years. Wonderful capturing of the Middle Ages, and excellent character study of a woman who is torn between the dictates of her society, and her religious beliefs and upbringing, and the very human desire of wishing to live the way she wants...What willfulness causes when it goes against society and the basic self....no wonder it was a Nobel Prize winner...and rightfully so. A treasure of world literature rediscovered...but never forgotten by those of us who read it before...and will read it again.
    Anonymous 12 months ago
    Well told story of Kristin's life in medieval Sweden
    tulikangaroo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I. DID. IT.Oh, this book, which lurked for almost a year on my nightstand - a brick that taunted me every time I dared to pick up another book that was lighter, smaller, less intense and tedious. I was determined to finish it, but it was tough.A review in four parts:Book 1: The Wreath (4 stars)I really did enjoy the beginning of the story, when innocent but headstrong Kristin was discovering the world and her place in it. When she was old enough to be thinking about the opposite sex, she developed an exciting and rebellious romance with the dashing bad-boy Erland, which led her to reject her betrothal to good-guy Simon (and go against the wishes of her beloved father). A little racy, a little dangerous. You go girl.Book 2: The Wife (2 stars)Having gotten exactly what she wanted, Kristin spent the next 15 years (and 400 pages) whining about it and resenting Erland. Granted, Erland is frivolous and oblivious, but she knew that before they got married, and that was what drew her to him in the first place. Getting through this part was like pulling teeth. I asked myself for months on end if I was willing to devote hours of my life to this torture, and the answer was usually "no." If you find yourself stuck here, as I did, take comfort in knowing that it does get better. If you can't take it, know that they have seven sons, Erland gets involved in a treasonous venture and loses all his property, and is once again generally a disappointment to Kristin, and move on to Book 3.Book 3: The Cross (3 stars)So, here they are in reduced circumstances, and tensions are still high between Kristin and Erland. Simon, her former fiance, still loves her even though he has since married her little sister. Everyone knows this except Kristin; fallouts ensue. Her sons are growing up and are just as stubborn as their parents, which causes great sorrow to the whiny Kristin. Both Simon and Erland die. Kristin becomes a nun. Then she dies. Finally, her travails and mine are over. In all honesty, the last 50 pages or so go a long way towards redeeming the last 2/3 of the book, but is it worth reading all of that to come to he following conclusion...?Overall (3 stars)This book is essentially about Kristin's struggles with her own perceived shortcomings as a Christian. For many people, I know this book is a poignant story about the trials and insecurities we all face, and the reality of God's love at the end of the day.For me... was it worth the pain she put herself through her entire life? Was the regret she felt about defying her father and burning resentment towards her own husband worth the trouble because she felt that she'd sinned? I just can't relate. I found her refusal to live her life to the fullest tedious. She hurt everyone she touched because she was brooding that her own soul wasn't up to par. On one hand, I get it. On the other, get over yourself.Finally, a purely modern critique: these people could have benefited with some classes in communication. Perhaps talking to each other might be more productive than sulking and holding grudges for YEARS?
    SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Kristin Lavransdatter has three volumes: The Bridal Wreath, the Wife and the Cross. I decided to read The Wreath in June, The Wife in July and The Cross in August. I'll be editing this review after each volume.I read this book because a) June is the best time to visit Norway and b) June is the best month to get married (or divorced) in and Kristin is about the marriage of Kristin...eventually. The book starts with "The Bridal Wreath." When we first meet Kristin she is a very young child traveling with her father across Norway. In true 14th century fashion Kristin is betrothed to a wealthy, reputable man on a neighboring plot of land. As Kristin grows up she becomes increasingly rebellious, so much so that when she is nearly raped her community has doubts about who is telling the truth. As a result her family decides to send Kristin away to a convent to hide out until the rumors die down. While at this convent she falls in love with the dashing Erlend, a man who has reputation problems of his own. Excommunicated by the Catholic church because of an affair with a married woman, Erlend manages to seduce Kristin as well. Before they can be married Kristin becomes pregnant. The title of this section of Kristin Lavransdatter is in regards to the wreath she is supposed to wear on her wedding day. It is to signify virginity but Kristin wears it with shame, too embarrassed to tell anyone it is a lie.
    K.west on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Picking up this trilogy in one set can be daunting. I had picked up the book twice before just to put it down a chapter later to find another book lighter in pages and subject.  When I discovered the edition translated by Nunnally I was not able to put the book the book down.  It still took me a while to read, reading as slow as I do, but now that I finished the 1168 pages I wish the book was longer so that I could still be lost in the world that Undset brought forth with such effortless proses. I found that this book had affect me much the same way the Gone with the Wind had as they are both historically epics about strong willed women durning times of historical change.  I would imagine that many fans of Mitchell's epic would be spellbound by this book.  This book is a must for fans of medieval historical novels and some fantasy fans may be intrigued by this work as well. A main theme is religious mysticism with Catholicism struggling with the old heathen ways of the land and how at this time of transition they existed together in practice and superstitions.
    writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    THE WREATHSigrid Undset¿s huge novel Kristin Lavransdatter is separated into three separate ¿books.¿ The Wreath makes up the first ¿book¿ and opens with Kristin as a young child traveling with her father through the beautiful countryside of medieval Norway. Kristin dotes on her father ¿ and he clearly has a special bond with his eldest daughter after losing three sons in infancy. Early on, Undset establishes a father-daughter relationship which is special and which sets the tone for what is to come.The Wreath is a coming of age story which follows Kristin¿s maturation from a child into a young woman in her late teens. Along the way, she must reconcile her ambivalence for a betrothal to a man she does not choose, and deal with guilt and remorse around a love affair with a man her father cannot accept. Kristin¿s infatuation with Erlend Nikulausson (a man nearly 15 years her senior who has had an extended affair with a married woman and been excommunicated from the Catholic Church) provides the drama and conflict in the book. Kristin is easily seduced by the handsome Erlend with dire consequences for her. As her close relationship with her father Lavrans begins to deteriorate, Kristin clings to the hope of happiness with Erlend despite her fears and doubts.Sigrid Undset¿s writing is fluid and beautifully reveals the wild countryside of Norway in the 14th century. The Wreath is filled with period detail of the food, dress, and architecture of this time in history. Romantic, dramatic and resonating with unexpected crises, The Wreath captivated me from the first page and drew me into Kristin¿s life effortlessly.In many ways, this first book in Undset¿s novel is a study of women¿s rights (or perhaps their lack of rights) in a culture which saw women as the possessions of first their fathers, and then their husbands. Kristin is faced with a decision to either abide by her father¿s choice of husband or risk shaming him. Torn between her own desires and the moral laws set by her culture and religion, Kristin wrestles with guilt, shame and anger. Early in The Wreath Kristin is nearly raped along a deserted road, yet she is afraid to seek the help of her family for fear of being seen as a slut. Later, this episode leads to her spending a year in a convent until the rumors in her small town die down.Many readers have commented on Undset¿s tendency toward melodrama, but I found this a realistic look at what life must have been like for women during medieval times. Their lives were very much defined by the men whom they married, and lineage and wealth all played a part in who would become their spouses. The reliance on religion as a guideline for behavior, and the harsh punishment when women veered away from these moral laws, also regulated their everyday lives. The Wreath is full of romance, but also emphasizes the inherent dangers of romantic connections for women who dared to step outside the rigid structure which had been established for them. Although Kristin is not wholly likable by the end of The Wreath, I found myself feeling empathy for her.I loved this first ¿book¿ of Kristin Lavransdatter and am eager to continue the saga in Part II: The Wife.Highly recommended for those readers who enjoy historical fiction. (5 stars)THE WIFEBook Two of Kristin Lavransdatter begins with Kristin¿s new life as wife to Erlend Nikulaussen at his home in Northern Norway. Kristin is ridden with guilt for her sin of becoming pregnant by Erlend before they were wed¿and as the birth of her first son approaches she becomes melancholy and seeks redemption by talking to Erlend¿s brother Gunnulf who is also a priest. Ultimately she must travel alone with her infant son to Nidaros to seek forgiveness and to be absolved of her sins.The Wife reveals the struggles, challenges, and pitfalls which Kristin encounters through the years of her marriage to a reckless man. Not only does she repeatedly face the risks of pregnancy, but Erlend becomes entangl
    grheault on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The chronicle of one woman's life in 1300's Norway. Great description of countryside, daily life, and conflicts of tribal, kinship duties versus individual desires and passions. Interesting descriptions of early forms of law, adjudication, representative governance, taxation, and grievance settlement. Catholic religion is also a dominating influence in personal and public life. One of the best descriptions, too, of the decline of a marriage over time from the early, heady days of love to the moment of spiritual divorce. It has the the grandness of War & Peace with a very feminine perspective, and many complicated, flawed heroes and heroines. Extremely engaging, and held my interest in a way that the British classics never have.
    Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Kristin Lavransdatter, by the Nobel Prize-winning author Sigrid Undset, is not only the story of the eponymous main character, it is also the story of all the lives Kristin touches, and the story of Norway transitioning into a Christian state. Undset follows Kristin's life in 14th century Norway from the time she is 7 years old and living happily on her father's estate, until she dies in a nunnery from the Black Death when she is about 50. The defining moment in Kristin's life is meeting Erlend Nikulausson. She falls passionately in love with him, and will do anything to be with him. Erlend, a handsome and courtly nobleman, is also deeply flawed. Kristin and Erlend marry, have eight sons together, and share both the greatest happiness and the deepest disappointment.In Kristin Lavransdatter, Undset tells the story of what happens when two people encounter a love that consumes them both. I found that by the time Kristin and Erlend were newly married, I had begun to really dislike Kristin. And yet it is a testament to Undset as an author that even her main character is self-centered, nagging and overly pious, the reader is swept into the story. This is partly because of the way Undset changes the point of view, moving from character to character. Personally, my favorite characters were Erlend and Simon Andresson (Kristin's original betrothed, from whom she broke to marry Erlend). Erlend in many was was the most intriguing character because the reader could rarely get a handle on him. We almost always see him through the eyes of others, and the other characters judge him very harshly. Simon is probably the most likable character, and the one who is probably most like us. He is generally honorable, a good guy, but he also has his demons.One aspect that is difficult to judge is the writing. I read the Tiina Nunnally translation, which seems to be regarded as very close to the text. If so, then I would say that Undset's best achievement is not in wordsmithing, but in plot and character development. However, because I'm reading a translation, it's difficult to say whether the writing would be more flowing or interesting in the original Norwegian.
    nolak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Rich in historical detail, this story of Kristin Lavransdatter is full of the richness of the lifestyle of the Norwegian royalty and commoners. Many characters are actual characters in history. Her life is full of so many things, that you are always caught unaware at the next events. Truly worthy of the award given it.
    hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book, by Nobel prizewinner, Sigrid Undset, is excellent! It is really long (1100+ pages), yet well worth the read. It is a Norwegian saga, set in the 14th century, spanning the lifetime of Kristin Lavransdatter, the daughter of noble lineage. The reader follows her life and all the requisite triumphs and sorrows.I think the primary themes included: honor, passion, love, nature of sin, nature of faith, Norwegian culture and history, role of religion, and maternal love. One of the non-plot items I found most interesting was the interplay between Catholicism and pagan beliefs.One of my criteria to receive five of five stars is the use of language in a memorable manner. That was the only piece missing from this book. I realize it is a translation, however, I have read many translations in which the use of language is memorably moving.
    littlegeek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Epic story of Norway during the middle ages. A bit slow in parts, a bit melodramatic here & there, but mostly fascinating and compelling. Lovely descriptions of the natural beauty of Norway, and the customs and culture of another time. Some well-drawn characters, especially Kristen, Erlend and Lavrans (the elder). Really captures the ebb and flow, feelings and events of a woman's life. I loved how while Kristen is young, her life is all about passion and striving and will, then suddenly she's middle aged and all that drops away for a more contemplative approach to life. As I approach my 50th birthday, this resonates deeply.
    alaskabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I am encouraging a great many people to read this reincarnated classic. I read it based on Thomas Cahill's recommendation in the introduction to his recent "Mysteries of the Middle Ages." It is essentially an overview of an entire lifetime; an observation of decisions made and consequences borne, and the lessons learned. And there are many lessons to be learned. I don't know how the 2005 translation by Tiina Nunally compares to the earlier translations, but it was very readable. Don't be intimidated by the length.
    Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The Wreath:Great read with excellent descriptive passages of everyday life and a realistic setting of medieval Norway. The story drags in places, but not for long. The story, characters, and especially the character of Kristin is superior to most of the psycho babble in American fiction today. There is a good reason this trilogy of medieval Norwegian novels have never been out of print in English. Read them and see why.The Wife:My God! Flesh & blood in two dimensions. These characters live and breath on the page. This second volume of Undset's trilogy follows Kristin's life as a wife and mother in medieval Norway. The reader lives not only the personal, domestic lives of her characters but also the grand political, national life of Norway in the middle ages. Faith is equally explored along with politics. All the characters are fully rounded and deal realistically with ideals, personal shortcomings, regret, the passage of time and what it means to be human. I cannot recommend highly enough.The Cross:The final volume of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, The Cross, is magnificent. As with the other two books life leaps from the page. The reader truly cares about all these characters because, like life itself, they have dreams, aspirations and failings. Doing what they know they shouldn't and repenting or not.The Cross deals with the end of Kristin's life: Old age, seeing her sons grow up and leave, and in the end, death and peace with God she reviews her life. Outstanding, Undset richly deserved the 1928 Nobel Prize. Timeless. Read all three volumes, in order.
    1morechapter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    For The Wreath Only (so far):The Wreath is Book 1 in Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, a Norwegian Nobel laureate. I had this book down as one I wanted to read in 2007 since last January! The size of it (all 3 books together are 1100+ pages) intimidated me so much that I¿m just now getting to Book 1.In The Wreath, we learn of Kristin¿s childhood and her relationship to her family and her community. She grows up in a home where her father adores her, and while her mother loves her very much, she is also sad much of the time due to multiple miscarriages. The descriptions of the farm life and scenes of 14th century Norway are simply fantastic. The book really has a sense of place and time.The next two books are The Wife (which I¿m halfway through) and The Cross. I really wish now that I had started earlier so that I could have completed the entire book in 2007. I¿m anxious to see what will happen in Kristin¿s life.
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    Entertaing historical novel, unusual in that the main figure is a strong woman.
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