Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Kristin Lavransdatter

I cannot say enough good things about “Kristin Lavransdatter”, by Sigrid Undset, a Catholic author from Norway. The trilogy, which was originally published in one volume, won the Nobel Prize in 1928.

“Kristin Lavransdatter” is a magnificent historical novel set in the Middle Ages. The story is at once poignant, tragic, and rich with Catholicism. I also found the footnotes to be very informative about the time. The translation I read retains the original archaic language, which I like because it gives it a more historic and romantic feel. There are also several modern translations available.

In the nutshell, Undset divides an “ordinary” woman’s life into maidenhood, young motherhood, and the aging woman. ‘The Bridal Wreath’ is about Kristin’s life up to her marriage; ‘The Mistress of Husaby” is about the early years of her marriage; and ‘The Cross’ is about the latter part of her life.

One of the reasons this trilogy is so wonderful is because it shows how the choices made when one is young (as well as the choices of those closest to you) have a lasting effect through the rest of one's life. I will not disclose much of the plot, as there are many twists and turns to the plot that add to the delight of its reading.

The Bridal Wreath” (or “The Garland”, in some editions) will have a profound effect on any young woman, as it carefully treads through the complexity of the purity of maidenhood. The romance as she becomes betrothed is so suspenseful that it is hard to put down. This book should be required reading for all teenage girls.

The Mistress of Husaby” (or “The Wife”, in some translations) is a more difficult read, but it particularly touched me where I am as a young mother. Kristin has seven sons, and feels constantly burdened by the responsibilities maintaining her husband’s lands, while beset on all sides by her children. Later she will look back on those years with longing, too late seeing how wonderful they truly were.

The Cross” sees Kristin battling many difficulties: marital, financial, political, and maternal. The problems she faces are timeless. The ending is profoundly sad, but that was the reality of the time, and it is captured beautifully.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

These books sounds so fabulous! They are on my list of must-reads for sure! Thanks for always sharing with me the things that are worth reading.