Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset

Author Winner of Nobel Prize 1928

What a wonderful beginning to a New Year! The story of a fictional maid, Kristin Lavransdatter in 14th Century Norway is really 3 books:
 --The Bridal Wreath Kristin, the daughter of a landowner is doted on by her father. She falls in love with a dashing, reckless man, Erlend, and betrays her family's trust and all to get her way and marry him.
 --The Mistress of Husaby Kristin moves with Erlend to his estate at Husaby where she takes responsibility for running it and bears seven sons. Erlend is arrested for treason.
 --The Cross Erlend is stripped of his possessions and his family moves back to Kristin's childhood home. As her children grow, her and Erlend's relationship deteriorates and Kristin anguishes over her motherly love, Catholic faith and passion for Erlend.

The story today would be called an "historical" novel as the author weaves in facts of medieval Norway. Details of daily life,dress and worship permeate the tale. This translation uses the language of the times which can take time to absorb but adds to the authenticity. But the book is much, much more. The relationships between father/daughter, husband/wife, mother/child, and many more demonstrate the meaning of love, honor, loyalty, faithfulness and forgiveness and the consequences of disobedience, imprudence, pride and anger.
I found my own heart aching at Kristin's heartbreaks and wanted to shout at her and Erlend when their headstrong ways brought pain and suffering. I plan to look for the later English translation and skim it for comparison. How wonderful that a book almost 90 years old still rings true today.  I also enjoyed being immersed in the daily life of the 14th century where snippets of historical events came to life in the ways it affected the people living in those times.  I was struck by how all encompassing was their catholic faith.  Truly a recommended read.

Click here for link to version I read
Published: 1923, English translation Read: 1/2012

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