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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 Tina 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.

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.

402 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1921

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About the author

Sigrid Undset

274 books654 followers
Undset was born in Kalundborg, Denmark, but her family moved to Norway when she was two years old. In 1924, she converted to Catholicism and became a lay Dominican. She fled Norway in 1940 because of her opposition to Nazi Germany and the German occupation, but returned after the end of World War II in 1945.

Sigrid Undset received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Most of the praise was for her medieval novels, including the trilogy about Kristin Lavransdatter. This trilogy has been translated into more than 80 languages and is among the world’s most read novels.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 321 reviews
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
April 29, 2021
Vigdis La Farouche = Kristin Lavransdatter 2: Husfrue = The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter #2), Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy of historical novels written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset. The individual novels are Kransen (The Wreath), first published in 1920, Husfrue (The Wife), published in 1921, and Korset (The Cross), published in 1922. Kransen and Husfrue were translated from the original Norwegian as The Bridal Wreath and The Mistress of Husaby, respectively, in the first English translation by Charles Archer and J. S. Scott.

The second book opens with Kristin's arrival at Husaby. She is suffering from remorse for her sins and fears for her unborn child.

Her relationship with Erlend is no longer the careless one of days past, as she can see that he is impetuous and wasteful of his possessions although his passion for her is unchanged. She gives birth to a son, Nikulaus (Naakkve for short), who to her surprise is healthy and whole in spite of the circumstances of his conception.

Kristin Lavransdatter:II: The Wife, Sigrid Undset, Tiina Nunnally, New York,...: Penguin Books, 1999, xxv,417p

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه مارس سال 2002میلادی

عنوان: زن رام نشدنی (همسر)؛ نویسنده: سیگری (سیگرید) آندست (اونست)؛ مترجم مریم حسن زاده؛ تهران، مرجان کلک، 1379؛ در 196ص؛ شابک ایکس - 964925370؛ عنوان دیگر بازی سرنوشت سال 1378؛ در 239ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان نروزی - سده 20م

زن رام نشدنی (همسر)، رمانی عشقی نوشته ی «سیگری آندست (اونست)»، رمان ‌نویس «نروژ»ی است؛ قهرمان اصلی این رمان، زنی سختکوش به نام «فیگدیس» است، که با فراز و نشیب بسیاری در زندگی روبرو می‌شود؛ نویسنده در این رمان، تصویری از «نروژ» در سده های میانی میلادی، ارائه می‌کنند؛ یعنی زمانی که ترکیب مسیحیت و بت ‌پرستی، در سرزمین «نروژ» سبب جنگ، انتقامجویی، و خونریزی شده بود؛

ناریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book484 followers
July 24, 2020
The second installment in the Kristin Lavransdatter series by Sigrid Undset is a marvelous continuation of this story of medieval life in Norway that began with The Bridal Wreath. Whatever sense of unfinished business I had at the end of The Wreath was satisfied in this book.

After her precarious start to marriage with Erlend Nikulausson, we find Kirstin both paying the price and reaping the rewards of her decision. She has to settle into life with a less than responsible husband and seven children, all boys, but she has also established her worth as both a mother and a wife. To my surprise, there is much to admire about Erlend, and just as he earned the respect of Kristin’s father, Lavrans, by the end of this book, he had earned mine as well. Undset writes him with a kind of charm that pulls you in and helps you to understand exactly why a woman like Kristin would find him irresistible. I kept picturing Errol Flynn, but I’m sure more modern bad boy charmers would fit the bill. His fatal flaw is that he is reckless and thoughtless; his saving grace is that he is intelligent and brave and loves.

Speaking of Lavrans, Kirstin's father, I love this character so much! The relationship he shares with Kristin is so special and there is a sweetness and wisdom about him that breaks my heart. We also find Simon Andresson again, and his is another character that I admire completely and ache for. There is much of tragedy building here that I fear cannot have a happy ending. Not everyone is admirable of course, and there are plenty of moments when even the admirable ones show to less than perfection. Perhaps the greatest strength in Undset’s writing is how real and multidimensional all her characters are. Even the monks have flaws.

Sigrid Undset is a remarkable writer. She draws striking pictures of these medieval houses, customs and occupants. The political and religious systems that operate during this time are vastly different than those we see today, and again, Undset provides such a thorough and accurate portrait that you cannot fail to understand the important roles they play and the effect that they have on the people and the times.

There are pictures of motherhood, husbandry, political intrigue, unrequited love, unappreciated valor and sacrifice that would rival any book ever written. When I closed on the last page, I knew I would not let very many days elapse before beginning the third and final volume. I begin to see why Undset received the Nobel prize and why she is so respected by the generations that have read her works.

Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 22 books2,017 followers
August 8, 2019
Kristin Lavransdatter begins to pick up the pace with The Mistress of Husaby. The writing is beautiful. As a mother of 8 sons, I think Kristin's reflections and thoughts on motherhood are straight out of our own hearts. At times wrenching, at other times maddening, by the time we get to The Mistress of Husaby we understand why this trilogy won the Noble Prize for Literature.
If you lost interest while reading The Bridal Wreath. Keep going. This is WRITING.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book150 followers
December 29, 2019
“But never had she felt so clearly as in this hour that it was on her father and mother all the life of this home had rested. What ever hidden troubles they might have had to struggle with, warmth and help, peace and safety had flowed out from them to all that lived about them.”


It is my own mother that I thought of constantly while reading this. Her grandparents came from a small farming town near Bergen, Norway, and she loved to pour over dense histories of the country. (All I saw in them then was Kings with funny names like Harald and Olaf, and long unpronounceable places with lots of umlauts). Oh how I wish she could have read this trilogy.

Book Two of the Kristin Lavransdatter series (called “The Mistress of Husaby” in my 1946 library copy translated by Charles Archer) was as good if not better than book one. With every page, you’re steeped in the story’s time and place—you feel the bitter cold, smell the smoke of the cooking fires, and wonder at the difficulties of survival in the fourteenth century.

The immersion is personal as well as physical. Undset puts you deep in Kristin’s mind as she struggles with her concept of sin, with the reality that her husband does not have the attributes she so admired in her father, with giving birth to seven children, with death and plague and step-children and family crises and medieval politics.

We see life through Kristin’s eyes, but always alongside of that, we see Kristin through the eyes of those who love her:

Heart wrenching scenes of the battle in her husband’s heart, that he adored his wife but found “He longed to leave her!”

Her father Lavrans, attempting to counsel her, “You tug and strain like a young horse when ‘tis first tied up to the stake, wherever you are tied by your heartstrings.”

Even the viewpoint of her eldest child: “… mother was like the fire on the hearth, she bore the life of the home as the lands round about Husaby bore the crops year by year …”

I am hooked on the world Sigrid Undset has created, on her insights and beautiful prose, and I hope to start the third volume soon. Maybe I'll even dig into some Norwegian history! My mother would be pleased.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,076 reviews711 followers
February 8, 2017
This is the second book of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. In my review of the The Wreath , the first book of the trilogy, I indicated I didn't feel optimistic about the marriage that took place at the end of the first book. This second book of the trilogy focuses on their married life (about 16 years covered by this book) during which they have seven children. The husband ended up not being as bad as I had feared. Based on fourteenth century expectations he could be rated as a mostly good husband, but certainly not perfect.

As a matter of fact the husband ends up taking some very reckless action near the end of the book that causes him to be placed in prison by the king. He's headed for certain execution which causes Kristin to exert her influence on an old admirer who in turn lobbies people in power to spare his life. These actions by Kristin are something of a turnaround for her because her relationship with her husband had become distant and cold. But when his life was in jeopardy her feelings of loyalty kicked in.

This book is full of many varied characters with differing strengths and weaknesses. The level of detail regarding everyday life is impressive. The description of the delivery of Kristin's first child is about as painful and drawn out as a written description can be. The same can be said for the death of Kristin's father near the end of the book. Thus I credit the author with good writing.

This book is as close one can get to a time machine for a visit to fourteenth century life in Norway. The author received the 1928 Nobel Prize for Literature based largely on Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy.
Profile Image for Nicola.
535 reviews55 followers
September 22, 2017
3 1/2 stars

# 2 in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy and to my mind a bit of an improvement on the first. Probably because as Kristin grows up and takes on the responsibility of being mistress of the Husaby estate we learn more about the day to day life of those times in a way that we really couldn't when she was a young girl and just running around deciding who she was going to marry.

Kristin is a bit of a contradictory character. After her flightiness of the previous book I wasn't prepared for her to be so efficient at running a house, especially one that had been so badly neglected. But as soon as she had arrived and the wedding guests had departed (which showed a concern for saving her husband's face by not launching into it in front of everyone) she rolled up her sleeves and set straight to work, turning the house into a liveable residence. And, not only the house, but the stores and other such outbuilding which would obviously have a great impact on the profitability of the estate. Women of these times, we must infer, did not sit placidly down spinning and sewing - they were extremely productive members of the household.

All of this was very good to see, as was her holy pilgrimage. Not that I care myself about 'sin' but I thought that as a pious young lady she really did need to face up to the fact that she had behaved very badly according to the social and religious mores of the day. If only she'd left it at that but along with all of this maturity she also unfortunately entered into a running war with her husband where she displayed the passive aggressive sulkiness of a child.

Erland (hubby) took this in pretty good part considering his obviously hot temper. Partly because of his undoubted guilt over the appalling way he'd seduced her into, er, anticipating their wedding vows and partly (which was very pleasant to see) because he obviously did love her very much. I found Kristin once again to be very frustrating. Whatever had happened they couldn't change the past and seeing as they were now married for better or worse why on earth couldn't she put it behind her, truly forgive Erland for his misdeeds and become the contented and happy wife she really had it in her to be?

I'm tempted to blame it all on religion - that constant drumming into the ears of sin, sin, sin! It certainly played a part, a large part, especially if you consider the fact that it was because it was a sin in the eyes of god that Kristin wasn't a maiden on her wedding day that caused her father so much shame. If he hadn't cared, and if Kristin hadn't known how much he cared... Well, it would have been a very different book. Even so, after fight number 1001 over what couldn't be fixed I just wanted to give Kristin a right good shake and tell her to stop slicing off her nose to spite her face. She had made her choice and to keep flinging it in Erlands face was no part of a proper Christian wife. But there, isn't that always the way? Using religious piety for sanctimonious blaming of other people in an attempt to shift the guilt for your own misdeeds.


There was a lot going on around the constant fights and giving birth to lots and lots of babies. Norway was in a rather interesting situation as regards to Kings at the time and I highly suggest any reader reads the introduction to familiarise themselves with the bare bones of what was going on as it will make the 'male' conversations a lot more comprehensible. The men of course being very interested in the politics of the realm. Kristin paid absolutely no attention, even with all of the repeated meetings in Husaby and pretty treasonous talk going on right under her nose. As far as she was concerned it had nothing to do with her. Rather a blinkered view but, ok.

Rounding out the political talk was some history and economic lessons. I was very impressed to learn that women had a lot of economic power. In what was surely a holdout from pre-Christian times, they inherited property in their own right with, from what I could gather, equal shares among all the legitimate children, male or female. And, what is truly astonishing, they kept their dowry and any inheritance separate from their husband! If a wealthy woman married a man then he had no claim on her property or money. If she died without producing an heir then everything she had went to her nearest kin and he had to vacate the premises. Wow! I do wonder how long that lasted once Christianity really got going in the country? That would not have sat well with the highly patriarchal nature of that religion at all!

Such things may not interest a lot of readers, but I do love my history and I know so little of Scandinavian history especially that it's great to get exposed to it in this way.

I'll shortly be reading the final book Kristin Lavransdatter, III: The Cross. I have to say I am feeling just a teensy bit anxious seeing as the picture on the front cover is a woman with a cross dangling from her wrist in what looks suspiciously like an attitude of weeping remorse. I've felt that this book has already pushed my tolerance for excessive catholic induced wailing over sin and I would prefer less not more of it in the concluding part of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Sinem A..
449 reviews247 followers
March 27, 2016
1928 yılında nobel' i alan bu Norveçli kadın yazarın sanırım ülkemizde yayınlanmış tek kitabı. O da Kristin Lavrandsdatter üçlemesinin 2. kitabı. Kitap Kristin adlı bir kızın hayatını anlatırken aslında geri planda Norveç tarihi hakkında çok şey söylüyor. keşke olsa keşke bilinse en azından bari bu üçlemenin diğer kitaplarını okuyabilsek.
Profile Image for Kansas.
575 reviews270 followers
June 4, 2020
Segundo volumen de la trilogia en torno a Cristina, Hija de Lavrans. Como ya comenté en el primer volumen, transcurre en el siglo XIV en una Noruega, sumergida en una ola de cambios sociales y económicos dónde la religión, en este caso la católica, jugaba un papel primordial.

Cristina es un personaje que ya aquí en esta segunda parte, casada con Erlend, se convierte en la señora de Husaby, y casi sin respiro comienza a traer hijos al mundo, lo que resulta agotador para el lector, porque llegado un punto, se pierde entre tanto nacimiento. Erlend, el marido de Cristina, de quién se vaticinaba que no podría ser el marido ideal a juzgar por varios momentos en la primera parte, no resulta tan malo como se esperaba pero sin embargo, tampoco resulta un matrimonio perfecto porque la mayoria de las responsabilidades descansan sobre los hombros de Cristina. Ademas, el personaje de Cristina, la gran protagonista, es a veces contradictorio y ambiguo; ella que tiene mucha personalidad y fortaleza depende emocionalmente completamente de Erlend y casi nunca llega a tomar decisiones por si misma, aunque si que tiene momentos de rebelión personal, pero le duran poco. Debido a la enorme influencia de la religión en sus vidas, Cristina vive obsesionada por sus pecados (pecados que ahora nos parecerían irrisorios) y por redimirse; quizás sea uno de los puntos más débiles para mi de estas novelas, demasiado análisis en torno a la religión y la fe, pero claro que históricamente es esencial para entender la época, ya que todo giraba en torno a ella.

"-¿Habeís creido todo lo que los sacerdotes os dijeron sobre el pecado cuando erais soltera?

Aunque este segundo volumen me ha gustado, el primero en torno a Cristina de niña y adolescente me gustó más porque continuamente estaban ocurriendo cosas; en este segundo volumen a veces el personaje de Erlend parece un lastre que no deja avanzar a Cristina, a la que como dije antes, a veces no entiendo por lo contradictorio de sus arranques y por esa obsesión insalvable relacionada con sus pecados de juventud en lo referido al sexo. Es cierto que la novela tiene un ritmo más pausado también porque el personaje de Cristina está entrando en la vida adulta con lo cual Sigrid Undset pone el ritmo de la novela a disposición de la vida que lleva Cristina en esta etapa de su vida.
Donde esta autora brilla más es en sus descripciones de la vida en la Noruega de la época y sobre todo en las descripciones de la naturaleza contrapuesta a los estados de ánimo de sus personajes.

"Varias horas después de que se hiciera de noche, cuando entraron a caballo en el patio de Formo, el viento silbaba en las esquinas de la casa, el rio tronaba, y de la montaña llegaba un ruido fuerte y confuso. El patio parecía un marjal esponjoso que ahogaba el ruido de los cascos de los caballos. Aquel sábado por la noche, víspera de fiesta, no se veía signo de vida en la enorma granja; ni gente, ni perros, no parecían haber oído su llegada".

En resumidas cuentas, una segunda parte de la trilogia que ahonda en la vida de Cristina, pero que también me ha dejado algo agotada ;-).

Profile Image for booklady.
2,235 reviews65 followers
October 24, 2011
It's not hard to see why/how Kristin Lavransdatter (the trilogy) won the 1928 Nobel Prize for Literature. This saga is amazing in so many respects: authentic attention to detail, moving narrative and deep insight into the human psyche. I am longing for someone who has read the book, to discuss it with me.

The author has done a phenomenal job presenting the slower-paced, farming-based, medieval life, centered on traditional values marked by a calendar of saint's days. She describes the local folklore and myths including where they occasionally obfuscate Christian morals while still giving us intelligent and believable men and women from that era. It is both refreshing to discover that our forebears struggled with many of the same moral dilemmas we face today and discouraging to realize their standards of moral conduct were higher than our own.

I did not want to put this book down. Going immediately to start the final book in the triology.
445 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2012
The second book in the Kristin Lavransdatter series somehow reappeared in my life several months after I finished the first one, which I had loved. This tale is set in medieval Norway, which was united and relatively prosperous and had turned to Christianity recently enough that the old gods still held some sway here and there. Kristin is now married to a flawed man, but they love each other and raise 6 boys. I found the beginning a little slow, with debates about religion and faith going on for longer than I liked. But eventually the plot accelerates and, as with the first volume, ends with an emotional twist that is superbly developed. And that is what is so great about these books. By having such convincing emotional relationships set in medieval Norway, I was reminded that people have always been people, and their loves and lusts and goals and frustrations are so much like ours today.
Profile Image for Matty-Swytla.
493 reviews72 followers
December 5, 2017
3.5 stars

I think I prefer the first book of the trilogy because I got easily bored with some of the more religious passages in this book, which are quite many. While that is completely understandable, I got bored since few characters learned anything from repetition of the same old arguments from the first book. I still love Lavrans and wish we got to see more of him, but the story follows his daughter Kristin, so tough luck.

The main issue I have with this book is that Kristin doesn't know when to let things go, rehashing her past and her sins over and over again, to the detriment of her marriage and sanity. It's rather ugly of her to throw her past Erlend's face and blame him for her follies as a young maiden, as if she wasn't an active participant. I saw red - woman, you're married to the guy you've happily slept with in the worst places imaginable while being betrothed to another, and now you're not happy that you got him as a husband?! Wasn't this what you wanted? So, needless to say, the marriage is kind of rocky at times, and at one points functions best when Erlend is far away. Somehow they always find a way to each other, usually when one of them is in some kind of trouble. They are lucky so many people like them and help them out.

I think I'll finish the trilogy sometime next year. Now I need a break from the deep dysfunction of these two. I can already imagine the horrors their sons will turn out to be (or not?).
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,121 reviews1,203 followers
December 8, 2021
3.5 stars

I expected to like this volume even more than the previous one, because in general I prefer content I’ve seen less often, and the story of a woman making her way as a wife and mother is much less common in my reading than the story of her falling in love and trying to avoid arranged marriage. But I actually prefer the first volume. The Wreath has its melodramatic moments, but it definitely kept me interested, while The Wife – covering about 15 years of Kristin’s married life – slows that down. There’s a lot about death, childbirth, illness, and Kristin obsessing about her sins. I know, it’s the Middle Ages. But I wanted this book to be over more than I wanted to read it.

That isn’t to deny its many positive qualities. Undset has clearly done a thorough job of researching the time period, and brings it to life. The writing is good, with beautiful descriptions of the natural world. The characters are believable as real people and as products of their culture. Kristin and Erlend’s marriage turns out realistically, basically what you’d expect from the first book, and that depiction is a rare achievement in fiction, where protagonists’ marriages are usually either near-perfect bliss or utterly terrible (I would call this couple’s marriage a fairly bad one but am not sure they would say the same). Like the first volume, this one ends in an interesting place – it picks up with some major events in the last 75 pages or so and left me curious enough about the fallout that I may still pick up the third.
Profile Image for Jersy.
756 reviews61 followers
December 12, 2021
This has a pretty slow start which may have the character examination but not the spark and strong emotional moments of the first book, also the events seemed a bit to unconnected to me. From the second third onward, however, this was the same kind of ride as book one, plus beloved side characters returned and were utilized masterfully.
Kristin isn't a child anymore and the change is noticable: there is more politics in this book, telling the reader about the situation of Norway at this point in time, but her personal life is also changed. While never being the most care free, she needs to take a more active role, find her place as mother and wife and struggles to not grow bitter. Undset is very sympathetic towards her flawed characters and portrays them as the complex human beings they would be in real life.
37 reviews
August 13, 2010
I enjoyed this even more than The Wreath...The characters really came alive for me in their complexity, and new depths to their personalities were revealed, often as the characters were experiencing revelation themselves. It was interesting to learn so much more about Kristin's parents and their relationship, and to watch Kristin grow to understand more about them. As we mature we are increasingly (hopefully!) able to see others apart from their relationship to ourselves and their importance to ourselves. It was amazing to her to realize that her parents had such fullness to their lives, both joyful and painful, apart from her.
I also came across a passage that stunned me with its beauty, and I will recall it with pleasure: "Her heart felt as if it were breaking in her breast, bleeding and bleeding, young and fierce. From grief over the warm and ardent love which she had lost and still secretly mourned; from anguished joy over the pale, luminous love which drew her to the farthest boundaries of life on this earth. Through the great darkness that would come, she saw the gleam of another, gentler sun, and she sensed the fragrance of the herbs in the garden at world's end."
This captures so beautifully Ragnfrid's experience and inner life at this exact moment in her story. I am glad that Sigrid Undset didn't skip this moment, and that Tiina Nunnaly did such a gorgeous job on translation.
Looking forward to continuing through The Cross if I can overcome my addiction to the Sudoku app on my iPad...
Profile Image for Rebekah Theilen.
82 reviews3 followers
April 26, 2019
Oh Erlend, you fool! How is it I can still love you so?

Book two, The Wife, is not as quick-paced or dramatic as book one, The Wreath. Book two settles into a slower pace with Kristin Lavransdatter’s marriage and her life-stage of wife and mother at Husaby, though we see less of her outer life than I would have expected. There are lovely moments here and there containing spot-on insights into those deep thoughts of motherhood, as well as palpable true-to-life details of painful, milk-engorged breasts, but this book seemed less to me about Kristin and more about getting to know the other characters, Simon, Erlend, Lavrans, Ragnfrid, Fra Gunnulf, etc. The shining moments of the book came from the interactions between these secondary characters.

I am eager to see what book three holds for Kristin. Much of what we see from her in The Wife is her inner struggle with bitterness and unforgiveness toward her husband. She carries with her constant guilt from her early relationship with him and struggles to accept God’s forgiveness in her life.

Husband/wife. Father/daughter. Mother/daughter. Brothers and kinsmen. Priest/confessor. Ex-loves and complicated pasts. The Wife is full of the deep complexities and emotion of human relationships.
Forget sex ed. I’ll probably just hand Kristin Lavransdatter to my daughter and say, “Read this”.
Profile Image for Julia.
20 reviews3 followers
September 26, 2021
Now that I’ve finished this book, I would like to offer up some alternate titles for consideration:

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: If Only Divorce Had Been More of a Thing in 14th-Century Norway”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: On the Importance of Heeding Red Flags”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: If He Does Stupid Sh*t Before the Wedding, One Can Assume He Will Continue Doing Stupid Sh*t After the Wedding”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: How Many Idiotic Things Can a Man Do in the Space of 404 Pages?”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: Sometimes You’d Be Better Off Just Marrying the Guy Your Parents Chose for You”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: Wow, Kristin Has Been Through a Lot of Sh*t… But at Least She’s Still Hot! (That’s the Most Important Thing, Right?)”

“Kristin Lavransdatter, #2: Never Assume a Woman Can’t Read”
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lizzie.
688 reviews93 followers
March 25, 2019
One of the pleasures of reading these books has been that the translation is so exquisitely done and naturally written, it's easy to think that it's a book originally in English. Translated works don't always so freely allow an authentic connection with the text, and that's one of the joys here. Apparently, there is a truly enormous difference between the original English translation of the 1920s (Archer) and this refreshing, enjoyable modern one of the 2000s (Nunnally). So, do mind how you go.

This book only got four stars from me initially because for nearly half of it, I worried that we were in for just a big old guilt-fest mingled with a bit of obscure politics. And it is, a little, and it does go on, a little. (Me in my lunchtime texts: "Did you know about SIN? PEOPLE HAVE SINNED LOTS? And also, sometimes both sides of 700-year-old debates sound exactly the same?") I got through with promises that, later on in this volume, "the sh*t hits the faaaaaaaaaannnnn," and I won't disagree that it does! But I worried for a while that my enthusiasm was going to flag only halfway through this series. It didn't, it came back! This is another great book, but slower to reel me in.

Certainly, the greatest section in the early part of this book is Kristin's penitent pilgrimage to the cathedral at Nidaros, which she undertakes barefoot and alone other than the infant on her back. I wanted to know what this day would have been like, so I tried to figure out where I would pilgrimage to from where I live that would be a similar walk, and I came up with Slough. Er. Maybe not, but, it's some perspective. Walking to Nidaros is enough of a thing, still, that the Norway tourism website has a whole page about how to do it.

Anyway, I wasn't sure where this was going to go, early in. The trilogy is quite traditionally divided: coming of age in the first, family life in the second, and the fate of the lineage in the last. So now in the second, what kind of marriage novel would this be? There's some rough stuff between Kristin and Erlend, quite close to the start, and I thought it looked likely that we had a pretty standard "be careful what you wish for" tale coming our way: a Kristin ever more pious, an Erlend ever more cruel, both deserving their unhappiness. But nope. In that scene where they're riding, they both act badly (though Erlend started it), and the incident is transformed into something entirely different and far more complex by the very next page. And that's exactly what the book is like. And that's exactly what people are like.

This gets truer and truer in the following book, but as I read this volume I started thinking about whether I've read many other novels with as realistic and clearly seen travails of marriage and parenthood. Even aside from the deeply intense and complicated rollercoaster of feelings between Kristin and Erlend, which carries on in highs and lows and which I think I'm going to chew on later for the next review, there are just very true moments that I recognise as what it's like to look after little kids. But with the twist, of course, of looking after them seven hundred years ago. Making sure your toddler doesn't wander off while you pick berries on the mountain. Arranging yourself in bed so the baby doesn't fall out as you all pile in together. The little and large things you observe around the house when you wake in the night for a fussing child. And I was practically keening when, at the big climactic period of the plot late in this book, Kristin as a totally side issue is suffering heavy symptoms from a mastitis infection. It has almost nothing to do with anything that's going on in the drama, it just is the sort of thing that would happen to make real life more complicated. (And also, girl, been there.)

At a certain point in book one, the main event is that "ERLEND is happening" (as I put it) and, indeed, in this book he just keeps happening to people (as a friend once hilariously said of a not completely dissimilar guy in another book). In book three, there is a quote calling Erlend "that bird of misfortune," and I cracked right up, it is so perfect. He is definitely our biggest puzzle as readers in all three novels; he fails at being our enemy and fails at being our protagonist. Do we love him? Do we pity him, do we resent him and blame him? I do, I do, I do.

Sharper in this volume, too, is the contrast between Kristin's husband Erlend and her Atticus Finch-like father, Lavrans. The realisation for Kristin that she can't recreate the peaceful home of her parents simply by growing to adulthood and moving to her own, grander* estate, and constantly carrying a child "under her heart," as is said. No one is the same as their parents, in fact. And in a society so tiny that everyone knows everybody else, there's no getting away from the past, or awkward exes, or any combo of the two. Getting to spend more time with Simon, though, is one of the great pleasures in this book and enriches the plot quite a lot.

(*Grand estates in medieval Norway: no guarantee that you aren't going to be sleeping in freezing houses and eating porridge at every meal.)

I'd like to note that the introduction to this volume contains a very minor spoiler about the ending of book three. Only to indicate what the eventual situation with Kristin is. It's not a large detail, but it's so difficult with these things to mesh the enjoyable scholarly writing and the reader's need for an experience. After too many spoilers over many years of trying to make this balance work, I now only ever read introductions after I've finished the novel, but I should have considered that it still wouldn't help me here in the middle of a trilogy.

At any rate, the introduction is thick but really interesting, especially the reflection that the trouble Erlend gets embroiled in here is so historically accurate that it really should have happened, and after Undset wrote it in a novel, historians wonder why nobody thought of trying it back in the 1330s. Which is crazy! It is fictional, but too real. (Some of our characters and side plots are straightforwardly true, too.)

As a historical novel, we get so much more out of this one than the first — still a soap opera, yes, and also with fascinating new amounts of detail as the people around Kristin change and the home around her changes and the concerns around her change. Men with swords, beds of dirty straw, good luck without a hospital, see you on the rack.

We get another interesting ending, here, though not quite to match that lovely sadness of the first. Again, though, we're left in a quiet moment of revelation (almost too understated, I think), and any reader would feel anticipation. Luckily, there's plenty of these guys left for us.
Profile Image for Moses.
590 reviews
February 24, 2023
Kristin Lavransdatter is changing my life. I can't tell you the relief I felt when I finished this volume and picked up the third volume from the shelf and saw that it was satisfyingly thick.

I am already not ready to be done reading this masterpiece for the first time. It is surely one of the greatest 20th century novels, and one that continues to fly under the radar.
Profile Image for Henrik Keeler.
101 reviews
December 14, 2021
Now that I'm rereading this amazingly complex and perhaps rather bleak trilogy, I'm trying to find out what I possibly could have gotten out of it when I read it on the beach one summer as a 12-year old. I think I was very fascinated with Kristin's struggles against her family and church to be with the man she loved. I appreciated her as a sort of feminist icon, and perhaps thought there were very clear parallells with the modern struggles for young gay people to be true to themselves and be with the ones they loved. I think I read it as a sort of manifesto to love and freedom.

In that way it's incredibly interesting to reread these novels now and see that this is not the ideology these these texts are promoting at all! Undset actually had a very conservative agenda while writing these novels, and Kristin's choices as a young maiden haunt her for the rest of her life. But like any great works of literature, these novels are multilayered and ambiguous. So they are neither progressive nor conservative, and it is never clear whether Kristin made the wrong choice or not, even though the choice she made did not necessarily secure her a harmonious and easy life.

The second instalment in this trilogy, The Wife, is a lot more challenging than the fast paced first instalment, The Wreath. Time moves more slowly, Kristin struggles with depression and guilt and an outrageous number of childbirths, and there is a lot more focus on the political situation in Norway at the time. Her husband, Erlend, gets involved in a plot to overthrow the king and is arrested and tortured for his efforts. It feels like Undset expects that her readers have a lot of prior knowledge about life in Norway in the beginning of the 14th century though, so she explains very little of what is going on. I had to work hard to interpret the clues and tidbits of information in the many conversations in the novel (these conversations are made more complicated by the fact that they are told by a narrator who often focalises through Kristin's perspective, and she isn't too updated on the political situation either) and then do some research on my own. I have certainly learnt a lot, but this need to do research did disrupt the reading flow somewhat.

It's also interesting to realise that I don't actually like Kristin very much. I find her arrogant, and her share of catholic guilt makes her acrimonious and bitter. But I appreciate how well rounded, multifaceted and dynamic these characters are. I was sad when Kristin's melancholic and mysterious mother died, as she is by far my favourite character.

It is rewarding to engage with the philosophical aspects of the novels as well. The combination of catholicism, existentialism and the world view of medieval Norway make this trilogy an intellectual feast, and it is one of the most unique reading experiences I have had. This makes it worth fighting through the linguistic combination of danish-norwegian and old medieval terms, which at times is excruciatingly difficult and at times breathtakingly beautiful.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,597 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2016
This book covers in great detail the Norway of the 14th century. Kristin gives birth to 7 sons, her husband is still reckless but tries hard. Their love is apparent even though they are both flawed.
The funeral preparation for Kristin's father was a strange highlight.
As in the first book, there were long sections of dialogue or internal thoughts mainly from Kristin and Erlend. Then occasionally there would be a major incident to bring life back into the story. However for me, there was a bit too much repetition covering their regrets on how they were married.
Nonetheless, the characters remain human, the rules and laws covering behaviour and allegiances were interesting, the power of the Church and religion were covered respectably while Norway comes out of it as a fairly mature and structured country for the Middle Ages.
Profile Image for April.
112 reviews18 followers
September 13, 2021
Since I first read this, ten years ago, my understanding of love and forgiveness, especially in marriage, has grown and leads me to better appreciate the relationship between Kristen and Erlend. I really liked reading this again. This book is definitely a classic in my opinion because it teaches me new things on each reading.
Profile Image for Mai.
106 reviews19 followers
June 30, 2019
The Wife felt a little more uneven than The Wreath – the plot seemed to start and stop, jolting from one episode to another. Also, I found the political intrigue hard to follow, mostly because I can’t keep track of who’s married or related to whom. I really need to make a chart or some kind to keep track of all those secondary characters! They have a way of lurching into the plot long after I’ve forgotten them and becoming relevant again, and I just can’t keep the Norwegian names in my head.

Those difficulties aside, I defy anyone to do better than Undset in terms of producing a realistic, hard-hitting depiction of the struggles of the spiritual life. She interweaves faith and the everyday existence of her characters smoothly, with tremendous impact at the climactic moments. I may not have always followed the political elements of the plot, but I was with Kristen in every high and low. And of course, the medieval Norwegian setting was fantastically real, beautifully alive and detailed. I really loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading The Cross (and judging by the name, I’m guessing it’s not going to be any less harrowing).
122 reviews3 followers
August 13, 2014
Somewhat to my surprise, I finished this, part 2 of "Kristin Lavransdatter". Surprised, because in one way it's chick-lit -- 1920s mediaeval Norwegian chick-lit. Besides, it's heavy on the Church, sin retribution etc, and very slow and detailed. But the detail has its own fascination; if you've ever wondered what 14th-century Norwegian farming families ate for dinner, and what they wore while eating it, and who sat where, and what they talked about, not to mention how long they sat there and where they slept afterwards, you're in for a treat. I didn't know I cared, or that I cd be interested in the life story of a nice girl who stands by her man no matter what. The "what" gets quite exciting there, for a bit, but then we're back to life on the farm, noting with amazement that bivouacking in a hole in the snow was quite the thing to break a journey, and enjoying lyrical descriptions of the Norwegian landscape in all its variety.
Profile Image for Lori.
390 reviews21 followers
July 7, 2013
What a nightmare.

I totally understand showing the bad things you reap when you make awful decisions, but it's hard to read a whole book where nothing good happens.

At the point where Kristin is blaming herself for her husband's affair, I became so angry I had to skim the last 100 pages.

I have no idea why she loves Ereland at this point, and even less of a clue as to why she believes he loves her. No interest in reading the third book.....
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Laura Tenfingers.
562 reviews87 followers
February 15, 2019
Almost as good as book 1 but I don't think it's because the book is any less good, but because of my ignorance of 14th century Christian morality and Norwegian politics. The character studies are fantastic, stellar, amazing! I got lost and a bit bored during some long passages discussing sin and redemption and later again when politics got thick and heavy. But overall it was great and had I understood Christian morals and politics of the time better I'm sure it would have been 5 star read.
Profile Image for Frank.
743 reviews38 followers
April 22, 2021
There are some fine moments in this, and I've no doubt of SUs talent at execution. But the story reads largely as a record of gossip and superstition.
Profile Image for David Shane.
157 reviews25 followers
January 21, 2021
I was tempted to give this three stars (which still means "I liked it"), but realized I'll probably be sad when the trilogy is done, so bumped it up to four. Especially enjoyed this one more for the historical fiction aspects. It is interesting that, for reasons of both culture and practicality, this is a society where big decisions are made over the course of months or years, and where people are willing to wait until the right moment to have that discussion... something to learn there as we live in a snap-judgment society that wants to change everything because of whatever was on the news today.

This is also a society where family relations are different, in more ways than one. Husband and wife might spend months or even years apart, since travel takes a long time and weather might pin you in one location until the end of winter. And of course, if you are traveling and intend to stay at your brother-in-law's home along the way, or what have you, there is no calling ahead, which does something to hospitality expectations - somebody knocks on your door in the middle of the night, you'd better answer it and have a room for them (at least if they are family). Although this changes over the course of the book, in parts you get the sense that, as long as Kristin is birthing him sons, Erlend doesn't feel a strong pull to be back at his estate living with her and their children and perhaps would actually be rather out adventuring... although this does change as the story goes on.

We see here also the relationship between the nobility and the commoners. The story does revolve around that nobility of course, which makes you wonder how everyday life differed for the commoners. And sometimes the commoner life (which is more like the life Kristin had as a child) is held up as superior in its simplicity (Kristin's pleasant experience having dinner with a commoner woman when she was out wandering, and her desire that that same woman be present for her first birth, for example).

I won't write too much more but, as with the first book, I was at least a little offput by the soap opera feel, the "who had that child with whom?" sort of thing going on in parts of the book. The fact that the man Kristin was betrothed to, and then spurned, has since become her own brother-in-law (and apparently still has feelings for her), certainly makes for some awkward moments and will perhaps factor more in book three.

But a good read.


A few snips I liked.

"'Kristin,' the priest said sternly. 'Are you so arrogant that you think yourself capable of sinning so badly that God's mercy is not great enough?...'"

"You have no right to ask me that, but I will answer you all the same. He who died for us on the cross knows how much I need his mercy. But I tell you, Erlend - if on the whole round disk of this earth he had not one servant who was pure and unmarked by sin, and if in his holy Church there was not a single priest who was more faithful and worthy than I am, miserable betrayer of the Lord that I am, then the Lord's commandments are what we can learn from this. His Word cannot be defiled by the mouth of an impure priest; it can only burn and consume our own lips - although perhaps you can't understand this. But you know as well as I, along with every filthy thrall of the Devil that he has bought with His own blood - God's law cannot be shaken nor his honor diminished. Just as His sun shines equally mighty, whether it shines above the barren sea and desolate gray moors or above these fair lands."

"Prayers, fasts, everything he had practiced because he had been taught to do so, suddenly seemed new to him - weapons in a glorious war for which he longed."

"Whoever has the greatest hunger forces his way forward - there is still some food in the trough. But those who might attempt to win power and wealth in an honorable manner, as was done in the time of our fathers, are not the ones who come forward now."

"From grief over the warm and ardent love which she had lost and still secretly mourned; from anguished joy over the pale, luminous love which drew her to the farthest boundaries of life on this earth. Through the great darkness that would come, she saw the gleam of another, gentler sun, and she sensed the fragrance of the herbs in the garden at world's end."

"She was brought up among men; she was able to be gentle and soft because there had always been men around to hold up protective and shielding hands between her and everything else in the world."

"'Wretched deeds accompany our arrival and our departure, Kristin. In sickness we are born and in sickness we die, except for those who die in battle.'"
Profile Image for Šarūnė.
147 reviews
August 26, 2020
Skaičiau netinkamu laiku? Galbūt. Nors atrodė, kad knyga pati mane pasirinko, pabaigoje man tai kainavo per daug mano minučių, kad aš pabaigčiau paskutinius puslapius.
Ištęsta paprasčiausiose vietose apie aplinką, o ten, kur, atrodytų, svarbu, - parašytas vos vienas sakinys: ,,Ir ji pagimdė savo antrąjį sūnų." Galbūt turėjau pati sujungti galus kai kuriose vietose, bet skaitinys pasirodė per ilgas.
On the better note, tai daug sužinojau apie Norvegijos Viduramžių laikotarpį, jų tikėjimą, sumišusį su baime ir tradicijomis.
Profile Image for Erika.
664 reviews48 followers
September 28, 2021
Fortfarande fint skriven om Kristin och om livet i det medeltida Norge, men jag hade lite svårt att hänga med i alla maktspelssvängar. Intressantast tyckte jag det var att läsa dels om Kristins äktenskap, dels om hur dåtidens människor såg på livet och sina förpliktelser i det.
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