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Kristin Lavransdatter (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1-3)
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1001 book reviews > Kristin Lavransdatter - Undset

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Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
read 2014,
Review: A story set in the 1300’s in Norway, telling the story of Kristin Lavransdatter from her childhood as the spoiled daughter of Lavrans to her old age in the cloister during the Black Plague.

There are three parts to this book; the Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross.

First Sentence When the earthly goods of Ivar Gjesling the Younger of Sundbu were divided up in the year 1306, his property at Sil was given to his daughter Ragnfrid and her husband Lavrans Bjorgulfson.

Last words Without thinking, they both walked as lightly and carefully as they could in the new snow.

I enjoyed reading about Norway, family life, Catholic Church and the plague. I thought the author did an excellent job with making the people real. They were fully developed characters and very real in their weaknesses and strengths.

Rating: Excellent (5 stars and a favorite)

Read: I started in July and finished in October, 99 days but I took many breaks. I do recommend the Nunnally translation. It won the PEN translation prize.


Amanda Dawn | 1090 comments I finished this one within October for my TBR. I listened to it on audio, but I'll admit, I put it on my TBR because in my personal spreadsheet I had put the page count for just "The Crown" and thought it was about 300 pages, not over 1000 lol. Ah well, I got it done, and really enoyed it and gave it 4 stars.

I love the idea that this story covers the whole life cycle of a medieval woman- people who we don't really see in stories about the middle ages beyond the romantized "maindenhood", and that it is a fundamentally human story about the trials of marriage, motherhood, politics, and faith told in such an almost universal and accessible way. This was really cool to me because so many stories written about this period treat people in these times as uniformly misrable, and like empty vessels of piety without personalities and complex inner and outer lives of their own. I think Kristen's conflict between personal desire and faith were great illustrators of this.

I also like that there are so many elements of the medieval epic present in this story (such as with Erland's rebellion, the political stuff, etc), but it is told from the perspective of a woman who would have been tending the "homefires" so to speak. I thought this book did a great job of demonstarting that the domestic sphere and interpersonal conflicts are equally worth treatment as "big manly violent epic" stuff.

There were aspects of it I was less in love with- such as the way Kristin's love for Erland is characterized. I didn't fuly understand it or the way it was romanticized to an extent- and I really thought Kristin could have done better than Erland and he was a bit of an asshole lol. But, I guess there is reality in that too: I have enough older female relatives who I've always thought should have married better men.

Overall, really enjoyed it and felt immersed in the world it is set in, and glad I misunderstood how big it was before agreeing to read it XD.


message 3: by George P. (last edited Feb 17, 2021 03:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

George P. | 484 comments I've just finished book one, The Wreath (or Crown) and my rating would be a "4 minus". The excellent work Undset apparently did in accurately representing the middle ages in Scandanavia makes this especially worth reading, though the story is pretty good too. Very well-written, so I intend to go on to book two of the trilogy The Mistress of Husaby (aka The Wife") after a few weeks interval. The 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy are a little longer, about 400 pages each.
I highly recommend the newer Nunnally translation to English over the old Archer-Scott version that I started with- was glad I switched.
PS Feb '21: I'm reading book two now (my planned interval of a few weeks became a few months) and mostly enjoying it also. It's 100 years old this year!


George P. | 484 comments Amanda wrote: "I finished this one within October for my TBR. I .."

Excellent comments Amanda. I thought your last line was pretty amusing.


Diane  | 2042 comments Rating: 5 stars

Sooooo good! I originally planned to read this over 3 years. I read the first book last year when I was visiting Norway and planned to only read the second book this year. The second book was so awesome that I had to keep going on to the third. The downside, however, was that I fell behind in my monthly reading goals since this book is so long. Despite its intimidating size, the book doesn't feel like a chore to read. I am feeling a sense of loss now that it is done.

I won't describe the plot, as those above me have already done such a great job. I also read the Nunnally translation, which is superb. I would love to see this in a movie. I imagine there probably is a subtitled one out there somewhere.


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