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Gunnar's Daughter

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The first historical novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Kristin Lavransdatter

A Penguin Classic

More than a decade before writing Kristin Lavransdatter, the trilogy about fourteenth-century Norway that won her the Nobel Prize, Sigrid Undset published Gunnar's Daughter, a brief, swiftly moving tale about a more violent period of her country's history, the Saga Age. Set in Norway and Iceland at the beginning of the eleventh century, Gunnar's Daughter is the story of the beautiful, spoiled Vigdis Gunnarsdatter, who is raped by the man she had wanted to love. A woman of courage and intelligence, Vigdis is toughened by adversity. Alone she raises the child conceived in violence, repeatedly defending her autonomy in a world governed by men. Alone she rebuilds her life and restores her family's honor--until an unremitting social code propels her to take the action that again destroys her happiness.

First published in 1909, Gunnar's Daughter was in part a response to the rise of nationalism and Norway's search for a national identity in its Viking past. But unlike most of the Viking-inspired art of its period, Gunnar's Daughter is not a historical romance. It is a skillful conversation between two historical moments about questions as troublesome in Undset's own time--and in ours--as they were in the Saga Age: rape and revenge, civil and domestic violence, troubled marriages, and children made victims of their parents' problems.

161 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1909

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About the author

Sigrid Undset

282 books655 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 185 reviews
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,242 followers
January 13, 2021
As the age of the fierce, savage, marauders, the Vikings slowly comes to an end, they become more traders than raiders, with the spread of Christianity's love they neighbor philosophy , around A.D. 1000, a small settlement, (this isn't just another Nordic saga) in what will become the great city of Oslo, Norway there lived a beautiful daughter of Gunnar's, the most powerful landowner in the area. She has many suitors naturally , but being a teenager Vigdis Gunnarsdatter, has time to choose her mate. Her father promised that, unusual for the era. But Gunnar loves his brave , intelligent daughter and only child, besides, he has nobody else in the world he cares for. Into this still pagan, uncivilized land arrives Ljot an Icelander and his uncle Veterlide, on a trading voyage from distant Iceland which had a much warmer climate back then. Immense forests covered 25% of the country, now less than 1%, these hardy, courageous people colonized that island to get away from "Civilization"in Norway. With the establishment of an unwanted monarchy there, telling them how to live and obey his laws. Icelanders founded a commonwealth (republic), with a primitive parliament, the Althing in 930, the oldest on the planet. Engaging in blood feuds, freedom for them...nobody their master, might makes right, the survival of the fittest, take what you need no authorities to pay tribute to ...paradise they believe. Ljot, at twenty has already killed many men, including the slayer of his father, he becomes enamored of Vigdis but she feels uncomfortable with his passion, though liking him, the girl is not ready for this kind of involvement, not a woman yet...A tragic event happens that will mar the lives of this unfortunate couple , all their lives, so Ljot goes back to his native land but always remembering the woman he left behind, it will be many years before they'll meet again and much blood flows in each country , before that occurs. When a disaster happens, Vigdis seeks the help from King Olav of Norway, the first Christian monarch, the king is still a man and tries to seduce her and Vigdis recently baptized into the new faith...Fascinating look at a long ago era of the human race, time marches on and these events become forgotten by most people , but books shall keep us from never entirely. That is what classics novels are about, to enjoy but also for knowledge, people get new gadgets but human feelings are the same, in any year. Sigrid Unset is a fine writer and she, a Nobel Prize winner , should be read more today...End of sermon.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
April 30, 2021
Fortaellingen om Viga-Ljot og Vigdis‬ = Gunnar's Daughter, Sigrid Undset

Gunnar's Daughter (1909) is a short novel written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset (1882-1949).

This was Undset's first historical novel, set at the beginning of the 11th century in Norway and Iceland.

The novel follows the tragic romance between the proud Vigdis Gunnarsdatter and the Icelandic Viga-Ljot.

The major themes are rape, revenge, social codes, marriage, and children bearing the consequences of their parents' actions.

The story is written using the motifs and laconic prose of the Icelandic sagas.

عنوانها: «بازی سرنوشت»؛ «زن رام نشدنی»؛ «دختر گانر»؛ نویسنده: سیگری (زیگرید اوندست) اونست (آندست)؛

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و دوم ماه نوامبر روز بیست و دوم ماه نوامبر سال 2000میلادی

عنوان: بازی سرنوشت؛ نویسنده: سیگری اونست؛ مترجم: مریم حسن زاده؛ تهران، مرجان کلک، 1378، در 239ص؛ شابک ایکس - 964925370؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان نروژی سده 20م

عنوان: زن رام‌نشدنی؛ نویسنده سیگری آندست؛ مترجم مریم حسن‌زاده؛ تهران، مرجان‌کلک، ‏‫1379؛ در 196ص؛ شابک ایکس - 964925370؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 09/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Maggie.
431 reviews430 followers
December 6, 2011
Growing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays while she was at work. The TV was basically on from the time she left to an hour before she got home -- you know, so the TV would be cool to the touch if she was inclined to check. From 12-3pm, I watched All My Children (RIP), One Life to Live, and General Hospital. General Hospital was the only one I ended up watching regularly.

I loved the wealthy and ruthless Quartermaines:

the hot but evil Cassadines:

and the lovable, All American Spencers.

Remember, this was the era before Wikipedia so the only backstory I knew was that Luke and Laura Spencer's wedding was the most watched daytime event in history and Elizabeth Taylor even made a special appearance. Imagine my shock when I found out that the Luke and Laura story began when Luke RAPED Laura. You know, because he loved her and wanted her SO much. Apparently in Port Charles, first comes love, then comes rape, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.

So what do my tragic TV memories have to do with Gunnar's Daughter? Let me explain.

Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is beautiful and headstrong. Her doting father welcomes two men into their house. The younger man, Ljot, is tall, dark, and handsome. He quickly falls for lively, intelligent Vigdis and asks for her hand in marriage. Vigdis is also smitten but, feeling unready, she asks him to wait for her answer. Soon after, Vigdis's childhood friend Kaare, another dashing Viking specimen, comes by and shows up Ljot. His pride injured, Ljot reacts brashly and suddenly assumes the worst about Vigdis and Kaare and her noncommittal answer to his proposal. Still, he wants to marry her and asks her again for her hand. She responds,
"You cannot have loved me so much either; no sooner did you hear evil spoken of me than you believed it and spread it abroad."
So then, because he loves Vigdis as much as Luke loved Laura, he rapes her. After he's done, he assumes Vigdis will want to run off with him and become some Scandinavian Ljot and Laura. Vigdis throws a rock in his face. Finally, a proper reaction.

However, in addition to the physical and emotional pain of the rape, Ljot leaves Vigdis with one more thing -- she's pregnant with his child. This is really where the story begins, and it is a great story. I picked this book up after scouring my local bookstore for authors whose name start with "U" for the A-Z Author Challenge, and I nearly gave up after the first page (I mean, really, FOUR footnotes on the FIRST page?!?). Fortunately, I stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised by this very readable story. Sigrid Undset manages to write an epic that deals with vengeance, consequence, family, and love in a scant 200 pages. And this book, published in 1909 and set in the 11th century, deals with the issue of rape in a way that leaves modern writers in the dust. Undset follows the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator after the rape, but Vigdis refuses to live victimized. She is up there with Evanjalin in terms of female characters who kick ass. Ljot is also not your stock villain, and he regrets what he did, but Undset and Vigdis refuse to romanticize or condone him. He also lives with the consequences of his actions and has the most beautifully twisted line towards the end of the book.

Books like this are why I do random reading challenges. They're not what I would normally pick up, but they end up being worthwhile and rewarding. I highly recommend this short saga. It's no wonder that Sigrid Undset ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Gunnar's Daughter is a stunning debut novel.
Profile Image for J. Sebastian.
68 reviews59 followers
June 11, 2021
Gunnar’s Daughter ~ Sigrid Undset
This is a short book, written in simple language, easy to read, one short chapter after another. Undset has written a story of the Viking age, set in the early 11th century, and she has written it in the style of the Old Norse sagas. This immediately transports the reader to the place and time. Like Ljot (and every other man in the story) I fell in love with Vigdis the first time I set eyes upon her:

It was dark when they reached the place. They found Gunnar in his hall, sitting in the high-seat. Gunnar was a big, handsome man with long grey hair and a beard which covered his whole chest. By the hearth sat two women; one of them was spinning by the light of the fire; she was not very young and was darkly clad, but bright and fair of face. The other was but a young maid, who sat with her hands in her lap doing nothing.

Veterlide went forward and greeted the master of the house, and before he had told the half of his business Gunnar rose to his feet and abde him welcome, together with his folk, ordering the women to bring food and drink.

They rose at his word, and the elder busied herself; she called to the serving-women and bustled hither and thither; but the younger stood by the fire loooking at the strangers. And by its light they now saw that she was very fair, tall and shapely, narrow in the waist, with a high and well-formed bosom; she had large grey eyes, and her hair reached beyond her knees; it was yellow, thick and smooth, but not ery bright, and her hands were large, but white and beringed. She wore a garment of rust-red wool, richly embroidered and bedight; her hair was bound with a fillet of gold and she had many rings and jewels, more than women are wont to wear in daily life.

The other woman now came in with a great horn of mead, which she placed in the hands of the younger, saying:

“It is your part, Vigdis, to bid welcome to the house.”

She who was called Vigdis then took the horn and passed along the benches, offering it first to Veterlide and after him to all the men. And the last she saw was Ljot.

For at first Ljot had seated himself at the end of the bench nearest the door, but then he had gone forward to the fire, being wet. And he held his cloak about him with one hand; but his black hair came down over his brow, so Vigdis saw little of his face but the eyes, which were dark-blue and deep-set.

When the maiden handed him the horn he dropped his cloak, and as he drank he looked at her over the brim of the vessel; it seemed that she liked not his staring, for she said not a word, but took the horn which he gave her, turned away and went to the raised bench, where she sat down.

Ljot seated himself so taht he could see Vigdis. After a while she galnced that way and met his eye; then she looked aside and turned red. But the next moment she looked at him again, and now she returned his stare until he took his eyes off her.
(From Ch. 2)

And that is a mere glimpse of her character; she is strong and her beauty is deep. That also gives you an idea of the style of the language in which Sigrid Undset tells her tale.

Undset's characters come to life in their dialogue, which is often witty, and often full of tragic, but humorous sarcasm. The plot unfolds before the beauty of the Norwegian landscapes, wolf-haunted forests clad in snow, ice crusted winter streams, the stormy sea, it is a harsh but beautiful country. Vigdis prevails over it, perhaps because she, like it, is also beautiful, and harsh. The dangers of life in medieval Norway and Iceland, and a code of honour that demands vengeance for wrongs suffered, makes the threat of death to loved ones a constant. The weak cannot hope to survive for long.

This is a love story that cannot be, and the inevitable doom toward which the action drives makes all the beauty painful. It has left me with many questions, but I am unable to raise them, without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say that you will hate and love the main characters, and you will feel deep sorrow for them as well as anger. They are only imperfect humans, after all. No one is able to escape his time, and Undset knows the mediæval norse world so well, that her characters are very true to their day and age. So, the tensions between Viga-Ljot and Vigdis are a reflection of the tension between two world systems that were at that time colliding: the pagan way of life demanding vengeance, and the newer Christian way, pleading for forgiveness.

I have not yet read Kristin Lavransdatter, about which I have heard so much, but the storytelling in this short tale is masterful. There are constant surprises. Small details of things that happen in one chapter are not forgotten later, but are used to advance the plot. Nothing is pointless. There is a red cloak that carries deep meaning. There are stories within stories, ghosts, miraculous visions. The great takeaway is this: Be very careful to treat your woman well, especially when she speaks Old Norse and carries a great knife, the blade of which is scored with runes. :-)

"Woman’s mind is not easy to unriddle," says Ljot. (Ch. 4)

And that is true not merely of the beautiful Vigdis, but of the lovely Sigrid.

See also: my review of Sigrid Undset's Happy Times in Norway
Profile Image for Dhanaraj Rajan.
448 reviews305 followers
April 25, 2014
Sigrid Undset is a genius. For, this is a short work with shorter chapters and yet contains many themes and all of them are adequately treated.

1. This is a historical fiction: The novel is set in the beginning of the 11th century in Norway when the Viking age was facing the transition into the Christian Middle Ages. It was the time Christianity entered into the Viking cultural milieu. And the initial frictions that appear between two cultures are expressed in many places in an interesting manner and that too in few words. For instance, the Viking who believed in physical power can not understand the faith of Christians and he remarks thus: "It was a strange religion whose God allowed himself to be slain by his enemies." Also the Viking practices are expertly narrated all through the book.

2. This is a love story: This is one of the fantastic love stories that I had ever read. The love blossoms between the main characters, Vigdis and Ljot. Ljot, afraid of losing Vigdis, seduces her. This is a shock to Vigdis who in fact was in love with him and his early advances make her angry. Later, Ljot runs to Iceland to escape the wrath of Viigdis' father. They both do not meet each other nearly for another twenty years and still they suffer from the loss of love (...for you do not know how miserable is the life of one who longs for his beloved"). After twenty years when they meet, the single encounter is charged with high emotion. One feels for both in those passages and Sigrid Undset is to commended for it. There are also other minor love stories which are also very interesting (Eg: Ljot's married/love life with Leikny).

3. This is a story of a strong woman: After reading this book you will fall in love with Vigdis. She is a strong character. She decides for herself in the Viking society where men had much power. She decides her suitor. When her dad gets killed, as a rightful heir she takes upon herself to avenge his death by slaying the killer. And she does it. Later she flees with the new born baby to escape the wrath of the enemies. She brings up alone her child and avoids many wooing attempts for she fears that after a rightful marriage her bastard son will be left with nothing. She shrewdly builds up the fortune for her son and brings him up a responsible and manly son. She is a strong willed woman and remains a strong willed one till the end even when it destroys her happiness.

4. This is also a story of relationships, specially friendships (Vetertide and Ljot; Vigdis and Illuge), Father - daughter relationship (Gunnar and Vigdis), mother - son (Vigdis and Ulvar) relationship and father - son (Ljot and Ulvar) relationship. Each episode is touching in its own way. The emotions are well captured wonderfully in the dialogues.

A mention is to be made on the language. The language looked similar to the literary genre, Ballad. And it is one of the types of Oral literature. 'Saga' in Norwegian means saying. And this novel uses same technique. I love oral literature and so it was like listening to a story told by someone who is wise and elder to you. The book gave me that feeling.
The dialogues are superb. Each encounter between the characters and the words exchanged between them are very appropriate. And this is another specialty of the oral literature. Many things should be expressed in few words and so they can not be like the regular fiction books of today. Sigrid Undset knew it and had used the minimum of words with vast messages. I will read the book just for the dialogues alone another one time.

Last Remark: There is a wonderful introduction to the author, the book and the historical setting of the novel by Sherrill Harbison. Can introduction be very interesting? Read this and you will love it. It introduces well the author and the historical setting with enough pages and so they neither tire you before entering into the novel nor irritate you with known details. The introduction is just adequate and gives you the right stimulus and achieves the aim: To prepare rightly the reader to get into the book.
Profile Image for  amapola.
282 reviews32 followers
January 6, 2019
Medio Evo nordico

Quando Vigdis e il marinaio islandese Viga-Ljot si incontrano scoppia l’amore, ed è travolgente, devastante, catastrofico: lei ha quindici anni; lui non sa, non vuole, aspettare. Le usa violenza. In Vigdis l’amore si trasforma in ossessione vendicativa, l’atroce vendetta di farlo uccidere dal suo stesso figlio.
Tutti i tentativi di Viga-Ljot di ottenere il suo perdono si rivelano inutili, Vigdis persiste nel suo proposito. Ma quando finalmente avrà ottenuto la vendetta tanto agognata, essa scoprirà che non è servita a niente e comprenderà di aver sprecato la vita ad odiare l’unico uomo che avrebbe potuto amare.
Una storia a tinte fosche, passionale, sanguigna, nel solco della miglior tradizione scandinava.

Sigrid Undset (1882 - 1949) è una delle maggiori scrittrici norvegesi di fama internazionale.
Nel 1928 le viene conferito il premio Nobel per la Letteratura grazie ai romanzi Kristin Lavransdatter (Kristin figlia di Lavrans, edito in Italia da Rizzoli) e Olav Audunnsøn, entrambi ambientati nel medioevo nordico.
Tutta l’opera della Undset ha come tema la crisi dei valori dell’uomo e la ricerca di verità eterna.
La Saga di Vigdis (1909) è il suo primo romanzo medioevale, preludio dei due grandi romanzi successivi.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for ♡ Martina ♡.
166 reviews138 followers
September 19, 2022
Nuovo libro nuova recensione!
Oggi vi parlerò de "La saga di Vigdis" un classico della letteratura scandinava che intreccia tematiche sempre attuali con una storia ambientata nell'epoca dei Vichinghi, presentandoci una donna, Vigdis, vittima del suo tempo ma che con la sua forte determinazione è riuscita ad avere la sua vendetta.
La storia è raccontata in terza persona da un narratore onnisciente che alterna momenti passati e presenti dei due protagonisti rendendo il tutto molto movimentato e dinamico.
Vigdis è un personaggio meraviglioso pieno di luci e ombre, che ha attuato una crescita personale che la renderà una donna forte e non sottomessa alla società patriarcale di cui sono schiave le donne del suo tempo, ma è anche un personaggio che mostra tutta la vulnerabilità e fragilità che contraddistingue gli esseri umani.
Non voglio scrivere altro perché il libro è molto breve e potrei, inevitabilmente, spoilerare qualcosa quindi vi consiglio di dare una possibilità a questo libro e di farvi trasportare nel cuore della Norvegia medioevale.
Profile Image for Amaranta.
548 reviews204 followers
December 20, 2022
Una favola di Natale al contrario.
Due persone unite dal destino ma che per un grave fatale errore il destino terrà lontane. E non basta il dolore che entrambi si portano dietro per tutta la vita. L’odio li consuma, li lacera e allo stesso tempo li alimenta di quell’amore che entrambi provano e che è la loro stessa ragione di vita.
Quanto un errore può influire su una vita? Quanto l’onta subita e non perdonata?
Da un’azione nefasta non può venirne mai nulla di buono, a meno che non se ne capisca l’errore e non si sia pronti a rompere la catena dell’odio. Viga-Ljot lo capisce troppo tardi. Vigdis crede invece che perdonare sia un simbolo di debolezza e nonostante l’amore che prova per lui sceglie di continuare ad odiarlo.
La scrittura è apparentemente semplice, scorre velocissima e si legge d’un fiato. Le descrizioni di quella natura bianca e selvaggia sono bellissime, placano l’animo dove i sentimenti dei protagonisti insinuano tempesta.
Un libro che è un monito. Pensare la nostra vita e cercare di essere la cesoia che rompe l’anello, nonostante l’odio sia sempre la scelta più facile.
“ho sofferto per ogni passo che ho fatto e per ogni onda che ho
solcato, perché non mi portavano da te."

Profile Image for Adoria.
210 reviews119 followers
December 13, 2022
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce récit, qui a vraiment tout pour (me) plaire. Le fond, la forme, la nuance des personnages, la dureté des évènements, le cadre tout particulier. Excellente découverte ! Une des meilleures lectures cette année !
Profile Image for Father Nick.
200 reviews70 followers
May 4, 2009
I'm not sure I could've picked a book more contrary in style and tone to the seven-volume Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Where King is elaborate and at times overpowering in his imaginative vision, Undset is so spare in her narration that her characters are almost always surprising me with their words and actions. I once heard Cormac McCarthy's writing described as 'biblical' for its laconic tone, but in comparison to Undset, McCarthy comes across like a high school girl journaling about her sorrows (with all due apologies to high school girls... seriously, though. Get over it). And it works for Gunnar's Daughter, it really does. It's an earlier work than Kristin, and that's clear without much of a question. Yet the genius of that later masterpiece is already shining here.
As ridiculous as any comparison between Undset and King is (I'd hate to imply that I'm considering as of the same caliber), it really gets at what I love about Undset's writing. Which is not to say I did not enjoy my time spent in King's world--not at all. But as I walked beside Roland of Gilead and his band of gunslingers, my heart was elsewhere. I was measuring them against a middle-aged Norwegian woman living in separation from the father of her eight sons, waiting to find in their story of multiverses and fusion of technology and magic the same contentment-in-mysteriousness that captivated me in Undset's fjords and saeters. Much like the accursed Ljot of the story I've just read, the happiness and rest I found with them only provoked the recognition that they were only a substitute, an adulteration, of what I'd known before.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
July 5, 2018
Olav I reinou na Noruega entre 995 e 1000 e teve um papel importante na cristianização dos vikings.
É nesta época que decorre a acção de Vigdis, a Indomável; uma parte na Noruega e outra na Islândia. Num tempo em que a vingança era rainha e as ofensas se lavavam com sangue. A vida humana tinha pouco valor; os recém-nascidos eram abandonados (expostos), sempre que o seu nascimento causasse incómodos; ou por serem ilegítimos, ou deficientes, ou desnecessários. Um mundo agreste e violento onde até o amor era sofrido.
Ljot e Vigdis amavam-se mas um erro - associado à incapacidade de perdoar - destruiu-lhes qualquer hipótese de felicidade e transformou as suas vidas num calvário de dor e amargura; como na canção de Martini: Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment, Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie...


"Ninguém e nada nos pode prejudicar, excepto o que tememos e amamos."
Sigrid Undset


Sigrid Undset nasceu em Kalundborg, Dinamarca, no dia 20 de Maio de 1882 e morreu em Lillehammer, Noruega, no dia 10 de Junho de 1949.
Sigrid, devido à doença do pai, foi para a Noruega com dois anos de idade. Com a morte do pai a família ficou com problemas económicos o que impossibilitou a Sigrid seguir estudos universitários. Começou a trabalhar como secretária, datilógrafa e a escrever. Inicialmente, teve dificuldades em publicar os seus romances, os quais são inspirados no seu profundo conhecimento histórico, adquirido nas leituras e, devido ao seu carácter introvertido, na observação das pessoas e da natureza. Teve três filhos e cuidou de mais três do casamento anterior do marido; das seis crianças, duas eram deficientes. Em 1940, após a invasão da Noruega pelos nazis, refugiou-se nos Estados Unidos, onde escreveu e discursou incansavelmente contra o regime nazi, até que o filho mais velho foi morto pelos alemães. Regressou à Noruega, no fim da guerra, e abandonou a escrita.
Sigrid Undset foi laureada com o Prémio Nobel da Literatura em 1928 "principalmente pelas suas fortes descrições da vida nórdica durante a Idade Média."
489 reviews36 followers
August 19, 2014
This was Sigrid Undset's first venture into the dark world of medieval Scandinavia; later, longer works would win her the Nobel Prize. "Gunnar's Daughter" is spare and harsh; it looks back not just on the sagas, with their manly world of insults and vengeance, but even farther back to the murder ballads. This is a world in which fate is set by a moment's decision, words uttered in anger control destiny. Gunnar's daughter herself converts to Christianity -- the great Christianizing king Olaf Tryggvason has a cameo - but like many a medieval conversion it is a switch of loyalties to a more powerful deity rather than anything to do with the gospels. Undset's view of this material is if anything darker than the world of the sagas; here not even bloodline is sacred, not even love saves. Her prose (at least in translation) and plotting are straightforward, with none of the romanticism that so often comes with this territory and which makes her innovations all the more startling. And the stage may be the largely male one of the sagas, but Undset is more interested in the women: the sad Leikny, who marries a man who cannot love her; Aesa, the step-mother, who has a compelling story of her own; and Vigdis, the passionate, unforgiving, fierce daughter herself.
Profile Image for Briynne.
602 reviews55 followers
October 9, 2009
I'm going to try not to gush, but it's going to be tough. I am in awe of Sigrid Undset. Total and complete awe. The style of the novel was intriguing. Undset models the book after the old sagas, which gives it a fundamentally different tone than that of Kristen Lavransdatter. At first, I was not entirely convinced; it seemed a little awkward and artificial, but thankfully after a couple of chapters she seemed to settle into the form. Or, perhaps, she simply abandoned her initial strict adherence to it and let her own voice come out more. I love how she can write such an intimate account of a character with such simplicity.

The story, in typical Undset form, is heart-breaking. I won't go into the details of the plot, but Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is a pretty remarkable woman. She faces a fairly horrible life head-on with a level of independence, determination, and viciousness that could never have been expected of her. I liked how she didn't fold under the weight of it all. In fact, I liked just about everything about this book. Read it!
Profile Image for Lindsey.
444 reviews5 followers
November 8, 2007
I read it in high school. The writing style seemed strikingly different from the trashy beach-reads I was into at the time.

I re-read it recently (2008) and again was struck by the effect of the sparse writing, which effectively conveyed both the cruelty of the weather and the characters.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,488 reviews1 follower
July 22, 2017
This is the first novel by Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset. In it you can see Undset's skill at recreating the people and mentalities of the Norwegian middle ages. The characters are engaging to the modern reader yet at all times remain congruent with the historical era in which the novel is set. Undset's art in Gunnar's daughter is still far from the level attained in her celebrated Kristin Lavransdatter cycle but the work still has its charms.
Profile Image for Anto_s1977.
574 reviews26 followers
May 10, 2020
Vigdis è una giovane ragazza norvegese, che si innamora al primo sguardo di Ljot, arrivato insieme al suo tutore dalla lontana Islanda.
Anche Ljot è favorevolmente colpito da Vigdis e, pur di averla, non esita a compiere un gesto più che biasimevole. Ma i due sono un uomo e una donna del Medioevo, non c'è per lei giustizia, ma solo vergogna e l'unica arma a disposizione di Vigdis è soltanto una: la vendetta.
Intanto gli anni passano, entrambi i protagonisti di questa storia sono infelici, ma nessuno dei due ha dimenticato. È ovvio, quindi, che gli eventi siano destinati a precipitare...
Molto appassionante questo romanzo storico, sia per l'ambientazione Medioevale in terre lontane e gelide, sia per la tematica affrontata, sia per la caratterizzazione dei personaggi, tutti molto forti, decisi e passionali.
Profile Image for Rowizyx.
339 reviews138 followers
December 14, 2015
Lettura totalmente alla cieca per completare più sfide, però direi che mi va bene, con quello che scelgo. Lettura interessante, è il primo libro che abbia mai letto ambientato nel medioevo nordico: interessante perché non c'è alcun tentativo di modernizzazione dei personaggi come ci sono a volte avviene con bestseller più famosi. Il mondo vichingo viene dipinto qui con realismo e una certa crudezza stilistica.

È sicuramente una ricostruzione della vita di quel periodo ben fatta, cruda e crudele in maniera realistica, e lo stile asciutto dell'autrice calza qui a pennello. I personaggi forse sono un po' prevedibili ormai (non so descrivere la voglia di prendere Viga e sbattergli la testa contro un sasso, anche se paradossalmente più che per per tutto il resto... cialtrone) , però c'è da considerare che questo libro ha già più di cent'anni.
Ho letto che questo romanzo breve si considera una sorta di prova generale per il capolavoro di questa autrice... Ci potrei fare un pensierino.
Comunque la consiglio, mi è piaciuta e di certo è un punto di vista diverso dal solito.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
7 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2014
I lasted about a week after finishing Kristin Lavransdatter before giving in and returning to Sigrid Undset's Norway. As with the much longer K.L. (an acronym seems necessary...), I was gripped from the first sentence: not because Undset writes in a sensational style--quite the opposite--but because yet again her medieval world feels as real as this one. Gunnar's Daughter has a plot that isn't far from melodrama in its broad strokes, but at no point (except perhaps towards the very end) does the story feel contrived: Undset sustains the masterful illusion of being a mere chronicler. It is, of course, an illusion, and subtly interwoven with the matter-of-fact "and-then-so-and-so-killed-so-and-so" is a world of profound feeling and even mysticism which rises to the surface at unexpected moments. One of my favourites of these moments is a story which a priest (who plays absolutely no role in the story, as far as I could tell) recounts: it's a bizarre and in some ways grotesque tale of a woman who encounters hosts of mourning and deformed infants who are, as it turns out, all the babies who have been left to die by exposure. The woman takes as many as she can carry, trying to bring them to the golden castle she is headed towards; and she discovers, in the end, that the child she has closest to her chest is the baby she herself left to die, many years earlier.
The thematic relevance of this tale will be clear to anyone who's reading Gunnar's Daughter, but for now I'll only say that this seems to me to be what Sigrid Undset does best: she waits until the crucial and unexpected moment to reveal that the character we had thought unimportant is the character closest to our heart--because there is no unimportant person in Undset's world. Even though characters get killed off at a truly alarming rate (this is, after all, the Viking Age), Undset creates a poignant and unshakeable sense that every life counts, no matter how brief or apparently unremarkable.
To sum up: Gunnar's Daughter is vivid; so gripping that it took all of my self-control, and then some, not to read it all in one sitting; moving--I cried at least twice, and given the brevity of the novel that's saying something; and in many ways profound. For fans of K.L., it's also interesting to see some of the proto-characters and themes emerging in this earlier novel. Now, on to The Master of Hestviken!
Profile Image for Michael.
444 reviews20 followers
February 5, 2016
Sigrid Undset is probably one of my favorite authors. This book is very different in some ways from Kristin Lavransdatter, her most well-known work, as it was highly inspired, not only in content but also in form, by the Icelandic sagas, specifically Njal's Saga and Laxdaela Saga. Gunnar's Daughter is more of a tragedy as well, dealing with the romance of Vigdis (the title character) and Ljot, his betrayal of her, their lives apart from each other, and finally their fateful meeting decades later. Undset again captures beatifully and compellingly the time, place and society of medieval Norway — this time dealing with the period just after the end of the Viking Age, when its harsh customs were only beginning to give way to the milder ways of Christianity. Indeed, the main plot of Gunnar's Daughter revolves around the Viking idea of retribution. But this is not just a story of revenge. Vigdis and Ljot are well-written characters, both sympathetic to the reader, and one hopes the best for them despite the terrible things they do at certain parts of the story. Perhaps the saddest part of the story is the hardships endured by Leikny Lytingsdatter, an Icelandic woman who had no guilt in the larger saga of Vigdis and Ljot, but who suffers because of it anyway. Despite the tragedy and oppressiveness of the time period, Undset makes the reader feel as if he was there, and makes him wish he was. Her clarity and economy (following the sparse saga style) is beautiful and her story heart-breaking.
Profile Image for Sami.
58 reviews14 followers
July 7, 2016
This was simultaneously the most heartbreaking and yet strangely beautiful book I have ever read.

The writing, probably, accounts for most of its beauty. Undset is absolutely phenomenal. Her words are powerful, striking, commanding. They speak to you with a rawness and a clarity of emotion.

As for the book's being heartbreaking... man. I am utterly speechless. I was in tears in several parts. The plot was do well-crafted that I caught myself crying aloud when a new twist revealed itself.

For one thing, there are so many upsetting themes. Rape. Betrayal. Anger. Hatred. But also love. Her characters were so well-written that they practically emanated them.

I would like to read this book again and explore things that came to mind in the middle of (and even after) reading this book. How did Ljot's change of character take place, if it was a change in character? Was his or Vigdis' suffering greater? Did they suffer similarly? If not, how were their sufferings different? Did Vigdis actually love Ljot the whole time? What kind of love did Ljot actually bear for Leikny? And did Ljot actually love Vigdis at all?

I believe this book to be so dense with meaning that one could write a college thesis on it. I also believe this book could make for a fantastic movie alike to Gladiator and Braveheart for its epicness, although it would most likely outdo both of them in story.

All in all, a powerful and curiously thought-provoking read. One of the world's finest literature, and definitely a new favorite for me.
Profile Image for Fonch.
365 reviews289 followers
October 10, 2022
Ladies, and gentlemen as it has been finished in record time the review of "The sentimental" https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I am about to write another. I trust that with the help of Providence I will be able to conclude it. This has been another of my favorite summer readings, perhaps the third best book, and the second book by Sigrid Undset https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... that I liked without reservation. The other was "The Burning Bush" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... that had a different theme. The success of Undset with this book has been due to a factor from my point of view essential, and that finally Undset has offered me what I wanted to read. It turns out that the novel "The Saga of Vigdis" although it should be called better saga of Ljot-Vigdis because of the importance that Ljot has in the saga. Among the Anglophone readers this saga is known as "The daughter of Gunnar", and tells the love-hate story of the Norwegian Vigdis and the Icelandic Ljot, that if we have to pay attention to what another Nobel Prize winner Halldor K. Laxness told us https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... the Icelanders were practically despised, and treated as slaves, they were even thought to be violent people, and criminals, when the curious thing is that they were the only people who decided in their assembly the Althing to convert to Christianity at the end of the tenth century. Although it had a strong pagan component. I would like to recall the wonderful prologue that Poul Anderson wrote https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... of his novel "The Broken Sword" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... that like the Count of Olivares he was a worthy rival for Cardinal Richelieu this novel, despite the amoral tone that announced Michael Moorcock https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... With all the prologue showing us what the situation was like in the Nordic countries, and offered us a vision of Norse mythology very different from that of J.R.R. Tolkien, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... in fact this story "The Broken Sword" could be Anderson's answer to the story of Turin Turámbar, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... although I agree more with Anderson's view of the Nordic world (this made the arrival of Christianity in the Scandinavian realm so necessary) Tolkien was superior to J.R.R. Tolkien, and he proved it again. In the prologue of that novel the Icelanders were seen offering sacrifices to the elves, showing, despite Thormbrandt's attempts, the slow transition from paganism to Christianity slower than in the other corners of the Nordic world. This story that he has edited wonderfully well @edicionesencuentro even though Encuentro had written very good prologues about the work, and the life of Sigrid Undset here has written a new prologue that I think is very accurate, and tells us the fascination of Undset for the Nordic sagas, being his first works of this style, she was also greatly influenced by her father, and was not only fascinated by the Nordic world https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..., but also by the Arthurian world https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3.... Something that was not easy, since Encuentro had already written two good prologues in "Kristin daughter of Lavrans" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... and "The Burning Bush" (I could not read the Olav Audunson, because I have Aguilar's edition). In this novel Undset has finally shown me why she is worthy of the Nobel Prize. I have already told this anecdote, but I repeat it to Goodreads users, because it never tires to hear a story told again if it is good. In a book by the Japanese Shusaku Endo (which by the way writing it cost him the Nobel Prize) called "Scandal" a fellow writer of the protagonist named Kano, as the fighter of Mortal Kombat told him that after the last novel of the protagonist he had finally managed to understand it, and that he liked the work of the protagonist. Something like this has happened to me with this book by Sigrid Undset true, which moves away from the usual t'nica of his novels, true that although Christianity is less present (although it is) Undset triumphs for two reasons, because the novel is shorter. Generally Undset tended to fill his novels with sometimes unnecessary pages. It is the case of "Kristin daughter of Lavrans" which I thought had many pages, and that Mika Waltari https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... (this is not going to please Undset fans, but I have to say, maybe it does not have the plausibility, nor the historical rigor of Sigrid Undset, but I like the Finnish writer better, and even if he is not a Catholic, he must have won the Nobel, because every page that the Finn wrote mattered, and created anxiety in the reader, and a spiritual anguish in the reader not to mention the wonderful characterizations, and descriptions he made, in addition to excelling in more genres than Undset), or "The Avalon" by Anya Seton https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... they had written better novels than the Norwegian writer (in the case of Seton, although it is true that Avalon I love if I must record one thing in favor of the Scandinavian writer, and that is that Seton's religiosity is not authentic, and that it is only a characteristic, which changes depending on the work, adapting to it, but I liked it better, and "Avalón" is without hesitation a real gem, which deserves to be rediscovered by critics). Johannes V. Jensen's slumber is not reached with "The Fall of the King". https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... , but it became very dry to read it. It is true that Undset sought to make a more realistic literature, which fled from Scottian romanticism, but by seeking that everyday realism caused the same disaster as the historians of the Annale school, and other tendencies, that nothing happened, and ended up distorting History, and in the case of Undset his work. In the case of Undset for example I remember when a Frenchman named Allard wanted to take one of Kristin's children, I was sad about me (like Alfonso XII) thinking there would be action, and adventure, and something would happen, but by not giving Erlend permission, and showing that Allard was a depraved person, and indignant deprived me of a series of adventures that could have been good for a book, that fell into quietism, sometimes shaken by catastrophes, or truculent events, but often ridiculous, and absurd, such as the death of Erlend for example.
Here Undset writes together with "The Burning Bush" his best story. A love-hate story, which takes place on horseback from Norway, and Eleventh century Iceland honor-revenge. Ljot falls in love with the Norway Vigdis, but due to jealousy he alienates the love of Vigdis, and allies with the enemies of his father's family (Gunnar), the Eylov and Kole of Gumelunde. Jealousy towards Kare, and the thought she doesn't love him. He makes him write satirical verses, and ends up forcing Vigdis (that naturalistic violence typical of Zola https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... persists in this work of Undset). That he must face the illegitimacy of a son, avenge his father, and make a pact with kings. In this case with Olaf Tryggvason first King who favors Christianity in Norway, although Undset shows us that he is not a very virtuous king. But if the story of Vigdis (who will play the role of a man), his escape is spectacular, and his revenge worthy of Mario Puzo's Godfather is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... good. Better is the story of Ljot, who marries, kills Halstein for honor, and Odd. Despite the love of his wife he does not manage to be happy because of his love for Vigdis, he loses his children, and this makes the character better, and matures thanks to pain. Despite the contempt he feels for the character, especially at the beginning, his misfortunes make the reader empathize with him. To the point of leading us to a fatal outcome in a society that is still pagan, despite the fact that Olav favors Christianity. But a blood-stained legalism is still present in which forgiveness and piety are still absent. The priest Eirik more than a priest is almost a scheldt. I was able to empathize with the characters from Ljot that is maturing, and improving until the final outcome in which in the end he shows us that he loved Vigdis and since he lost it he could not be happy. This story felt like my own. I met in my past a person, who reminded me of Vigdis, strong, courageous, noble, independent with a strong personality. That is why this story, despite the tragic outcome, has affected me so much. I can only consider it as a masterpiece, and not only as a good cover (in fact Encuentro has made a wonderful cover of bluish features, reminiscent of the Valkyries, or Eowyn Tolkieniana of bluish features). My grade is (5/5). PS. My sympathies went with the Norwegians, because the wife of a cousin of my mother lives in Valencia, and is from Norway.
My next review will be "The Love Hypothesis" by Ali Hazelwood https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... I didn't like anything, but goodreads users will already discover that.

Profile Image for Mariam Hamad.
276 reviews296 followers
December 18, 2021
This novel left me speechless and full of mixed feelings, and by the end I knew that Sigrid Undset had become one of my favorite authors. When I read Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy earlier this year I felt like I discovered a hidden gem, although it was translated to Arabic but only few Arab readers heard of it, and I wondered why Kristin Lavransdatter was never mentioned along with the famous literature heroines? Why it wasn’t portrayed several times in movies or TV shows like Anna Karnina or Madam Bovary or Jane Austin���s novels? Undest’s heroines were ahead of their time (and Undest’s time) and they represent the strong, determined, passionate yet realistic woman who face the conflict between her own feelings, her family and her society.

I read Gunnar’s Daughter because I wanted to see how Undset wrote before writing Kristin Lavransdatter, and thought it would be less profound, or immature since its one of her early work and compared to her famous novel, but it surprised me on all levels. In Gunnar’s Daughter, we are swept away to Norway and Iceland in the eleventh century, right in the middle of the transition period from paganism to Christianity. Undset wrote her story in a Saga form, and she made sure to stay true to the age traditions and soul through the matters presented and the language she used for her characters.

I loved both Viga-Ljot and Vigdis, and my feelings were swaying between anger and compassion with their acts and motives. Viga-Ljot is not the typical knight nor the typical villain, he’s just a human, a human who made a terrible mistake and suffered from the sequences, a human who mature with years and try to become a better man. Vigdis as well is not the typical princess nor the typical victim, although she suffered most from Ljot’s action but she refused to be treated as a powerless woman, instead she reshaped her life and defended herself and her family honour totally by her own. The ending was shocking, and I kept hoping for another ending while reading the last chapters. But that ending is more real and true to the time, and although it broke my heart I totally admired Undset’s courage in giving such brutal end to her carefully crafted Saga.

I’m fond of “Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” tv shows, so I was picturing the novel setup and characters in my head easily. I imagined Viga-Ljot to look like Uhtred (The Last Kingdom) and Vigdis to look like Gunnhild (Vikings), and every other character I link it in my imagination to one of these shows characters. I truly enjoyed reading this novel though it left me with a broken heart, but it was such a smooth and profound read. I wish to see an Arabic translation of this novel and other Undest’s work, and to be adopted on screen!
Profile Image for Max.
1,170 reviews7 followers
December 7, 2013
This was a very good book. While this is written in a style very similar to that of the actual Icelandic Sagas, it manages to have more psychological depth and complexity to its characters. The story ends on a somewhat ambiguous note. It's in some ways a simple one, but it raises some interesting issues and is told in a way that forces the reader to decide how much they're willing to sympathize and identify with the various characters. It also contains themes and situations that are definitely still relevant to the modern day, though presented in a way that makes them seem natural in the Viking Age setting. The scale was somewhat different from the sagas, and overall I found I enjoyed it as much as them, though for very different reasons. The setting was a little bare, and though I know I could find books and other resources to learn about Viking Age Norway, I still wish there had been more details. All in all, this was a very enjoyable read and one that I think even people who aren't otherwise interested in the time period the novel is set in will enjoy. I definitely want to read more of Undset's work at some point in the future.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,008 reviews1,118 followers
April 24, 2012
Sigrid Undset was introduced to me by Mother when I first visited her in Oslo. Her Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy was a revelation, both of medieval Norway and of domestic life and the lives of women during the period. Being in Norway at the time, I was able to visit many of the sites mentioned in the novels, the most impressive of which was the island nunnery in the Oslofjord, still known for its imported vegetation brought there by the sisters centuries ago.

Gunnar's Daughter is set a couple of centuries earlier, in the time of transition from the pagan vikings to the forced Christianization of the Norse, spanning both Norway and wild Iceland. It is a rougher, darker time and a rougher darker tale, again told with the focus on the female protagonist.
Profile Image for Ashley.
318 reviews
January 20, 2010
Gunnar's Daughter feels like it was written hundreds of years ago. Undset based her style and story on the sagas of Iceland that she read as a girl--even the language and tone echo those early pre-Christian histories. Set in eleventh-century Iceland and Norway, it's the story of Vigdis Gunnarsdatter who is raped by the man she wanted to marry. It's full of vikings and violence, and you might think the setting is too far removed to hold any interest for you--but it's amazing how relevant and powerful the story is. It's a fast paced read because it's sparse and short, but I can't stop thinking about it. I loved it!

11 reviews10 followers
April 2, 2008
I am on sabbatical and that means I can spare some time to read for pleasure! I am not sure of reading books by Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset is only pleasure. Her books feels like an education in feminist theory, history, geography, aesthetics, psychology, and literature. She is an amazing author! Start with the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter if you have any interest at all. How she can write as such a knowledgeable Norwegian historian AND have her novels feels so contemporary regarding the "human conditions" is masterful, or mistrissful;>)
Profile Image for Beth.
210 reviews12 followers
December 24, 2015
My new heroes: 14th-century Norwegian women. Our protagonist not only sliced her rapist/would-be suitor with a knife, she also called him a "ghastly bugbear," and her foster mother washed her hair in the blood of her own newly-killed captor/rapist/would-be suitor. Much of the language from this translation needs to be brought back into everyday use. "Dastard" is a noun that deserves recognition on its own instead of being subsumed within an adverb spoken only ironically in contemporary times, and "on the morrow" is just one of my favorite phrases.
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