Sara 's Reviews > Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
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's review
Jul 27, 10

bookshelves: historical-fiction, scandinavian-influence
Read from March 01 to July 01, 2010

I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad I read it. BUT after spending months reading it, I now feel compelled to finish books fast by reading manga and children's books!! I will explain.

First and foremost, I wanted to read a story set in medieval Scandinavia (and yes, I did get this idea during a long, cold winter). I usually prefer it if the main character is female. So, this book was an ideal pick. It is set in 14th century Norway and tells the story of a woman's life from childhood through old age. I don't want to give away much of Kristin's life story because seeing it unfold is kinda the point of the book, and besides, it would take forever and interested parties can read it elsewhere.

I would like to say that this book surprised me on several memorable occasions. I would think a situation was going to go a certain way, and then something interesting and unexpected would happen.

I felt deep sympathy for the characters. Of course, since it's Kristin's story, I felt the most for her. I felt happy, remorseful, annoyed, spiteful, loving, angry, and other things right along with her. Sometimes I wished I could shout my advice at Kristin, her husband Erlend, and several other characters!

Historical fiction can be slow-moving, and this book actually has a second layer of "historical-ness" too--it was written in the early 20s and has since been translated into English. In some ways I enjoyed this. I really wanted to learn more about medieval Scandinavian culture. It was great being able to read details about what people ate, how they dressed, what the daily chores were, what travel was like, what buildings were like, how kinship and social networks worked, and so on. However, these details did slow the pace of the book, and sometimes I'd be reading along wondering exactly whose cousin's fiancee's son I was reading about! But in reading these details about side characters, you get an idea of how small the world was back then and how individual choices could have ramifications into multiple families and communities.

This is the kind of book to savor. There isn't a lot of suspense. It's mostly the story of an everywoman, full of hopes, mistakes, victories, failures, and opportunities gained and lost. I will remember Kristin and her world.

This edition has a listing of the feast days that are mentioned to mark the passage of time and seasons in the book. This list is on the last page. I wish I had found it sooner!
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