0366 | Kristin Lavransdatter | Sigrid Undset

0366 | Kristin Lavransdatter | Sigrid Undset

Context: I read this at home and as we have a paddock next door with horses and they feature widely in the novel, decided this would make a good context pic.

REVIEW

This is an epic in the great tradition of Scandinavian literature. A trilogy which helped to win her the Nobel Prize, Undset’s masterly portrayal of the life of a 13th century nobleman’s daughter is a classic work and should be more widely known.

Kristin is a headstrong beauty who spends most of her life torn between her urges (love, guilt, loyalty) and her obligations (family, religion, gender). There’s plenty here that occurs in many other great novels but what makes the difference to this work is not only the richness of Undset’s exploration of Kristin’s character, what makes this novel stand out is the setting.

I doubt many are familiar with 14th century Norway. Exploring it through Undset’s prose is a very rewarding experience. Granted, there are brief stretches in the second book where the medieval Scandinavian political scene dragged a bit. But these are brief and you’re soon back into the countryside, or houses, or food or clothing or religion and these are all richly described. For me, the blend of superstition and Christianity was fascinating. Why so? Well, it mirrored almost perfectly that of the 21st century Papua New Guinea I’m living in. Made me wonder if the present day church in Norway is what PNG’s will look like in 2800.

There are plenty of events along the way that keep you occupied while you get to know the setting and Kristin herself. She has 7 sons and, as they grow up, she finds herself facing somewhat similar issues to those her father faced with her. She deals with these in various ways, always haunted by what she put her parents through.

And there are plenty of other characters to keep you busy if you’re not taken with Kristin herself. Her father features a great deal in the first book and he’s something of a hero, both on the domestic and national fronts. Simon is also a key figure in the narrative and his love for Kristin is an entire story in itself.

So, if you want to immerse yourself in the past for a while and see both how life has changed while humanity has stayed the same over the last 800 years, get yourself a copy of this. For portability though, I suggest you get the e-book. Alternatively, at 1100 pages, use it to build your biceps on your daily commute.

 

OPENING LINE

When the earthly goods of Ivar Gjesling the Younger of Sundbu were divided up in the year 1306, his property at Sil was given to his daughter Ragnfrid and her husband Lavrans Bjørgulfsøn.

99TH PAGE QUOTE

This far into the book, some of the plot might be revealed. If you want to see the quote, click show

Early one Sunday morning at the end of April, Aasmund Bjørgulfsøn’s church boat glided past the point on the island of Hovedø as the church bells rang in the cloister church, and bells from the town chimed their reply out across the bay, sounding louder, then fainter as the wind carried the notes

The sky was clear and pale blue, with light fluted clouds drifting across it, and the sun was glinting restlessly on the rippling water. It seemed quite springlike along the shore; the fields were almost bare of snow, and there were bluish shadows and a yellowish sheen on the leafy thickets. But snow was visible in the spruce forest atop the ridges framing the settlements of Aker, and to the west, on the distant blue mountains beyond the fjord, many streaks of white still gleamed.

Kristin was standing in the bow of the boat with her father and Gyrid, Aasmund’s wife. She turned her gaze toward the town, with all of its light-coloured churches and stone buildings rising up above the multitudes of greyish-brown wooden houses and the bare crowns of trees. The wind ruffled the edges of her cloak and tousled her hair beneath her hood.

CLOSING LINE

This might give the game away. If you want to see the last line, click show

RATING

0366 | Kristin Lavransdatter | Undset | 81% | Excellent

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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