Anthony's Reviews > Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
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M_50x66
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Jan 20, 09


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 she focuses less on the act than on the consequences of the act.

This is a book about sin and redemption. The consequences of Kristin choosing herself before God — a thing called sin — echo, and echo, and echo for the rest of her life, affecting not only Kristin herself but everyone she loves.

One might dismiss the effects of sin in the book as being simply the effects of guilt and the social burdens imposed by the time period depicted, and say that now that we have destroyed the concept of sin and of guilt we are better off. But the effects are not all internal to Kristin and cannot all be dismissed as a product of guilt. And what is wrong with guilt? Only in rare cases does one feel excessive or harmful guilt that one should not feel. In most cases, as in Kristin's case, guilt is simply the voice of one's conscience. To fail to heed it is to shut down an integral part of one's self.

Undset understood sin. She understood that it is a real thing, with real consequences. She understood its nature as choosing the self over God. And she understood that redemption comes, ultimately, from the cross, as evidenced by the aptly titled final portion of her book.

I am not at all surprised that Undset converted to Catholicism soon after writing Kristin Lavransdatter — I'm just astonished that she wasn't Catholic when she wrote it!
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message 1: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Key Thank you, Anthony, for a refreshingly original review, free from today's psychological/social cliches.


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