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Kristin Lavransdatter (Kristin Lavransdatter #1-3)

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,838 Ratings  ·  668 Reviews
In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally's a ...more
Paperback, 1168 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published 1920)
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Neil White The newer translation by Tiina Nunally is preferred by most readers, I think - it's quite beautiful and modern sounding, very straightforward and more…moreThe newer translation by Tiina Nunally is preferred by most readers, I think - it's quite beautiful and modern sounding, very straightforward and more like Undset's original prose. It reads like 20th century fiction, basically. Some people prefer the older original translation by Charles Archer and J.S. Scott, but it's rather archaic sounding - lots of 'thee's and 'thou's and 'methinks', etc. It was a stylistic choice to reflect the 14th century of the novel, but a lot of people think it's distracting and does a disservice to Undset's prose. I can see why they thought that might be an interesting choice, but I think the Nunally is far superior.(less)
Anne I read Ida Elizabeth two years ago while working in a college library with lots of old books. It captivated and tore the heart out of me; I think I…moreI read Ida Elizabeth two years ago while working in a college library with lots of old books. It captivated and tore the heart out of me; I think I read most of it in a single evening and wrote a couple thousand words of free-writing about the raw emotion it evoked. (less)
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Best Historical Fiction
143rd out of 5,510 books — 21,293 voters
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Best Scandinavian and Nordic Literature
14th out of 880 books — 899 voters

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Community Reviews

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Well, well, well, Miss Undset has made it onto my 10-star list. She should be proud. She also won a Nobel Prize for her work, so there is that. Her Kristin Lavransdatter books are unquestionably works of massive scope on par with JRR Tolkien's Lord Of the Rings. A strange comparison, you say? Well I agree with you. The only thing that comes to mind immediately is the length of the two. But there is so much more. Where LOTR was preparation for battle with Sauron's forces, Kristin Lavransdatter wa
But she couldn’t help it; it was her nature to love with great toil and care.
When I read, I seek the marrow of things. Details and description of lands I shall never see and times I shall never know are all very well, but I am a human being, and it is human beings I am concerned with. It is easier for me with some books than others due to commonalities of sex and race and culture, but more often than not that is a surface tension appeal, a reliance on shared references that both author and I i
Webster Bull
Jan 26, 2011 Webster Bull rated it it was amazing
Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize in 1928 largely on the strength of her 1,100-page trilogy of Medieval Norwegian life, Kristin Lavransdatter. I recently read it for the first time on the recommendation of a friend in Communion & Liberation (CL). I have since recommended it to other friends and family. Most people don’t have the time for such a long read. Here’s my Letterman list explaining why I think you should make the time.

10. It starts out as a father-daughter story, and I am a sucker f
Sep 16, 2008 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Brilliant and beautiful! I just finished Kristin Lavransdatter and it has easily earned a place in my favorite books ever. Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize in Literature for Kristin Lavransdatter while still in her prime and it was well earned. For those reading it for the first time, I strongly recommend the most recent translation by Tiina Nunnally. The original translation into english by Charles Archer, which I tried to read unsuccessfully several years ago, is filled with unauthentic arhai ...more
Aug 24, 2011 Hesper rated it really liked it
This one should be subtitled, "decent people make scads of bad decisions and then agonize over them." Seriously. I am surprised to have liked it as much as I did, because there is no reason this massive book should work.

And yet, it does precisely because of all the reasons why it shouldn't: plot and pace sacrificed to character development, pages and pages of seemingly trivial detail and enough Catholicism to fill a smallish catechism. Taken individually, its separate parts sound like a gruelin
Jan 20, 2009 Anthony rated it it was amazing
I've seen Kristin Lavransdatter described as a book about a young woman who "defies her family and faith to follow the passions of her heart." Well, yes. But while today that might be seen as a virtue, it is decidedly not portrayed as such in Kristin Lavransdatter. This is not a feminist book. Despite how often Sigrid Undset wrote about "the immoral kind" of love, she was no proponent of the burgeoning emancipation movement. She is fairly unique among those who write about illicit love because s ...more
Jun 19, 2015 Werner rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All historical fiction fans
In my recent review of Heather Day Gilbert's God's Daughter, I commented that her style in some ways reminds me of Undset's. Perhaps that's a function of the fact that both ladies' writing is shaped by a Christian world-view (Undset was an adult convert to Roman Catholicism), both focus their historical writing on medieval Scandinavian culture, both do a great job of getting inside their character's heads, and both created strong female protagonists. (Though Undset's other major work, which I re ...more
[ETA movie review at the end.]

Man, I don't even know how to review this book. It's really big, and full of melodrama, and it took me a pretty long time to read; and now that I'm done I'm somewhat tired and will be glad not to have to think about this anymore.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fine book. But I didn't love it. At times, I didn't even like it. There was a lot of talky-talk, and maybe that's my own fault for reading the entire kit-and-caboodle in one collection as opposed to reading the
Mar 10, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it
Seven reasons why I really, really want to love Kristin Lavransdatter

1) I have long-standing crushes on both Scandinavia and ye olden days, and this book is a free trip straight to the heart of 14th-century Norway. Undset's portrayal of the life of one woman, from childhood until death, is fascinatingly intertwined with the tensions between the Catholic present and pagan traditions in medieval Norway. And her writing so evocative. You can just smell the cook-fire smoke in the wooden rooms, see
Timothy Hallinan
Jul 21, 2011 Timothy Hallinan rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite novel of the year. I read it about 30 years ago in the old translation and loved it, but the Tiina Nunnaly rendering is beautifully simple, without the creaking archaisms of the other, which was done in the 1930s, I think.

Reading this again reaffirmed my conviction that many modern historical novels are pap of the tenth magnitude, identifying the sympathetic characters for the drowsy reader by giving them value systems and attitudes that didn't evolve for centuries. The main
Aug 14, 2015 Geoff marked it as to-read
I just bought this book with money and later I am going to read it with my eyes and brain.
Dec 22, 2012 Valerie rated it it was amazing
Kristin Lavransdatter is the story story of a warm and determined woman. I cannot stop to think that what is The Lord of the Rings for boys is this book for girls. Unfortunately the resemblance stops here, as this novel is not so much known today, and the movie set on the book was far from Peter Jackson's masterpiece.
Undset’s writing is fluid and beautifully, and reveals the wild countryside of Norway in the 14th century, with a carefully depicted immersion in the day-to-day life, social, politi
Sep 19, 2008 Holly rated it it was amazing
Set in 14th century Norway, this novel follows the story of Kristin Lavransdatter from the age of 7 to the 51. Christianity is firmly established in Norway, but vestiges of paganism remain when famine or plagues strike. Undset won a Nobel prize for the book and it's clear why. The descriptions of the natural setting and the way she described characters makes it one of the best novels I've read. It's a long book and I feel like really did watch all of Kristin's life unfold. If your library has it ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book if it's what you're looking for: a sustained character study and a poignant, ultimately tragic, look at the ultimate futility of earthly life from an author with an authentic sympathy for the medieval mindset. At 1124 pages, it follows essentially the entirety of a medieval Norwegian noblewoman's life, from her childhood through a torrid, illicit affair, through her resulting troubled marriage, and beyond.

It is a character study. It is essentially plotless. Only rarely d
Mar 14, 2009 Megan rated it it was amazing
Its difficult to talk about the books in this series as individuals. Really, it is the story of one life. I was not expecting to be as moved as I was by these stories. These lives wrapped me up so fully that I didn't noticed that I had become so deeply attached to Kristin. And now that I am done and she is gone I feel loss.

Its difficult to write much about this story and not sound trite. Sweeping, epic, beautiful, are adjectives that all come to mind. What I can say is that at the end I was str
Erik Graff
Aug 07, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Anne-Lise Graff
Shelves: literature
This is one of the finest novels I have ever read. Until reading about it to write this note, I had not realized that it was one of the first novels to describe the entire life of a woman who was not a royal. My estimation of the book may be influenced by the fact that I purchased and read it in Norway while spending two months there visting family. Consequently, I was able to visit several of the sites which play a part in the novel while reading it.
Undset's trilogy is an astounding masterpiece illustrating the profound interconnectedness of the human tapestry, the effects of sin on both the sinner and society, and ultimately providing a moving portrait of a young girl as she makes her way through adolescence, motherhood, and finally old age in the difficult environment of 14th-century Norway. A beautifully-yet-simply-written and immersive hallmark of 20th century literature.
Che tortura! Ne avrei sospeso la lettura già dopo i primi cinque capitoli, ma mi ero imposta di finirlo sia perché lo stavo leggendo insieme ad altri utenti sia perché speravo che migliorasse. Della Undset avevo già letto Jenny e mi era piaciuto nonostante una partenza lenta che non prometteva nulla di buono.

Tutto il libro ruota intorno a Kristin figlia di Lavrans e seguiamo la sua vita dall'infanzia fino alla morte; la storia è ambientata nella Norvegia medievale. Kristin è il personaggio più
Clare Cannon
Jan 22, 2012 Clare Cannon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, adults
The epic of all re-readable epics, Kristin Lavransdatter is a three book series that must be read through to the end, for it is one story covering the whole life of the protagonist.

It is set in Norway in the 14th Century, a time and place where faith was intricately interwoven with life, and when land and family, inheritance and name were the full extent of one's identity - Lavransdatter means daughter of Lavrans.

Yet it is also a familiar and human story about the love and enmity between people,
Sep 17, 2008 Marian rated it it was amazing
I read the Oxford Press- Charles Archer translation of Kristin Lavransdatter in 1981. It was the best book I ever read. I would come back & re-read parts of it.

Then Tiina Nunnally did a new translation which was published by Penguin Books in 2005. I am re-reading the entire book 1144 pages. This translation is much easier to follow. The original from 1920 used a lot of English words that are not in commun use today. If anyone has had problems trying to get into this book, I'd suggest they tr
Rebecca Huston
One of the first real historical novels that I read as a teen -- and still do as an adult. Set in Norway in the 14th century, the tale of Kristen from her childhood to old age is a classic as she makes an impetuous mistake that may or may not be the right choice. Full of joys and heartache, this is a wonderful book, and one that I heartily recommend.

For the complete review, please go here:
Apr 15, 2013 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an unforgettable trilogy situated in 14th-century Norway. It is the life story of an upper-class woman whose thoughtful, religious, questioning, and self-aware nature contrasts with the reckless, wild, and dashing actions of the man she meets, loves, marries, bears children for, clashes with, and can never bear to lose.
Dec 10, 2014 Sophie_vf rated it it was amazing
I finally finished this long, long trilogy which I saved for reading on weekends because it was almost impossible for me to put down once started.
First off, this book is probably not for everyone - not because of its length, but the subject matter - a woman's life from birth to death in medieval Norway - is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Furthermore, one of the overarching themes of the book is Kristin's lifelong struggle with almost crippling guilt, which a modern reader would be tempt
Mar 03, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
Wow- what a book! I think I’ve developed arthritis in my wrists from holding this tome too much over the past two weeks, that and thank goodness it was not a hardback because otherwise I’d have several black and blues across my face from dropping it while in bed.

However, it was all worth it.

Undset’s novel is actually three in one and I think it really should be read this way instead of breaks between since they are so seamless: The Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross.

The Wreath was by far my favo
May 25, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
Spoiler Alert!

After just finishing the trilogy, I'm not sure how I feel about Kristin Lavransdatter. Well written, the story was engaging, emotional, and desperately sad. I loved reading it, but didn't love the story. One tragedy after another, I wanted so much for her happiness but she couldn't see God's beauty and gifts around her ...her own sorrow clouded any hope for peace.

Each time there seemed to be the beauty and enjoyment of everyday life, Kristin would self destruct through yet another
Czarny Pies
Mar 28, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian-lit
Sigrid Undset's epic trilogy of life in 14th Century Norway Kristin Lavransdatter which was responsible for her receiving the 1928 Nobel Prize for Literature is unquestionably a major work that has aged very well. Because, it is a profoundly bleak and depressing work which ends with the heroine dying of the Black Plague, I am thus not quite sure who would actually enjoy it but most literature lovers will unquestionably be impressed by the quality of Undset's writing and thinking.
The first thing
Apr 11, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it
Complex, beautiful, intensely moving, sometimes heartbreaking, and completely unforgettable. This trilogy contains many passages that are as enlightening and emotionally relevant today as any book of historical fiction I've ever read. Definitely worth the investment of time required.

Reader's note: In my opinion the second book did tend to drag a bit, but stick with it, the third book more than makes up for it.
Jun 09, 2013 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kristen Lavransdatter is one of the great epic stories. It ranks with Powell's Dance To the Music of Time and HH Richardson's The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, Proust, Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, Ford's Parade's End.(less)
Ivan Damjanović
Nov 14, 2015 Ivan Damjanović rated it liked it
Ovo je bila pokora s velikim P. Zašto sam se prihvatio ove sage? Osobna preporuka s najviše instance. Je li mi žao potrošenog vremena? Naravno da ne.
Evo nekih natuknica, čisto meni; ovdje mi je pregledno.
Naravno, među prvim stvarima koje upadaju u oči je prerazvodnjenost (opisi pejsaža, inte/eksterijera, izgleda likova, kojekakvih doba dana i atmosfera), što je i logično jer je roman smješten u srednji vijek pa autorica to želi i dočarati. Često sam zbog toga imao dojam da čitam kroniku, ne rom
Jun 14, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
I struggled with this book. It was on my to-read list for decades since a woman whose taste I respected announced it was her favorite book. And I saw all the 5-star reviews on Goodreads. Surely I would love it!

But I struggled. I struggled to care for the central character. The characters I cared most for led sad lives and died off and left me with the characters I didn't love. There was more medieval Norwegian politics than I could follow, and more complicated familial relationships than I could
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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 h
More about Sigrid Undset...

Other Books in the Series

Kristin Lavransdatter (3 books)
  • The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1)
  • The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter, #2)
  • The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter, #3)

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“All my days I have longed equally to travel the right road and to take my own errant path.” 1869 likes
“Feelings of longing seemed to burst from her heart; they ran in all directions, like streams of blood, seeking out paths to all the places in the wide landscape where she had lived, to all her sons roaming through the world, to all her dead lying under the earth.” 12 likes
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