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Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife by Sigrid…

Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife (1921)

by Sigrid Undset

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kristin Lavransdatter (2)

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This book tells continues the life story of the fourteenth century woman, Kristin Lavransdatter with her marriage to Erlend and the birth of their seven sons. Two prideful people, their marriage is predictably tumultuous. Woven into this are two other things; Kristin’s struggle with her faith and her husband’s indifference to their children and Erlend’s immersion into Norse politics, as he is eager to often leave the annoying antics of his infant and toddler sons in which he takes no real interest, and his wife who does not thrive during pregnancy although she manages to survive childbirth.

Sigrid Unset as some wonderful things about her writing, which is why I round it up to three stars, but I still don’t care much for Kristin who can’t seem to forgive herself for the nature of her relationship to Erlend before their betrothal and then their marriage even after paying her penance via her church and religious beliefs, and I have never liked Erlend who is rather self centred, brash and rather thoughtless of others. There other, smaller, characters I like much better, and I do plan to read the third and last book in this classic trilogy. There is certainly a lot of good work put into the history of the time in which is set, the nature of popular religious views and the nature of Norse politics at that time.

I have tagged this politics and am surprised it wasn’t already tagged this due to Erlend’s political activities throughout this novel and which are an important part of this book.
( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Volume II sees Kristin married and living on her husband's estate at Husaby (near modern Trondheim). Even after producing industrial quantities of babies and discovering that just about everyone she knows has some kind of sexual irregularity in their family history, she is still distracted with lovely Catholic guilt about the circumstances of her marriage. If you step back a bit from the story, it's a bit hard to accept this central premise - surely she wouldn't have had time for wallowing in the past with a large estate and a herd of small sons to manage and her husband constantly away on military service? But obviously, Kristin isn't meant to be "any normal (medieval) person", and Undset does make a fairly convincing case for her peculiar psychological state. Within the parameters of the novel, you can just about convince yourself that it makes sense, but it does go rather over the top a couple of times. It isn't Undset's fault, of course, that since her time, Evelyn Waugh made it impossible for readers to take seriously any chapter that self-indulgently describes the Good Death of a Catholic Aristocrat...

As in Volume I, the technique involves highly-detailed scenes with jumps of several months or years between them, but this time there's a lot of politics happening offstage in between the acts that Kristin isn't completely aware of. Some of this is explained to the reader, but not all, and I would probably have been rather lost without Sherrill Harbison's introduction explaining the political situation in 14th century Norway and helping the reader sort out what really happened and what Undset added. ( )
1 vote thorold | Aug 31, 2015 |
The second instalment of noble laureate Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, The Wife, continues the story of Kristin Lavransdatter now that she is married to Erlend Nikulaussøn. She must manage the estate at Husaby and raise a ever-growing family while still coming to term with the consequences of her actions in the first book. Yet also, her husband becomes involved in a plot to install a rival king on the throne and this interweaving of historical action with the everyday lives of Undset's characters makes The Wife an engaging and interesting novel.

Sigrid Undset ably uses historical detail and compelling characters to create a detailed and thoroughly-readable account of mediaeval Norway - all of which is rendered into English by the excellent translation by Tiina Nunnally. Nunnally also includes the excised passages from the Archer translation that include Kristin's dialogue with Saint Olav and other important psychological insights that Undset gave into her characters. The dialogue between Kristin and Saint Olav, for example, while sometimes confusing, ensures the reader gains an important insight into the religious and personal life of Kristin Lavransdatter, and again highlights the importance of Christianity in both the lives of the mediaeval people and in the life of Undset herself.

This is another excellent novel by Undset and for its historical, religious, and personal insights into the daily lives of mediaeval Norway is rightly treasured and merits many readings. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Sigrid Undset vividly recreates medieval Norway in detail in her Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. The second volume, The Wife, recounts the struggles of Kristin and her husband Erlend Nikulausson as they attempt to build a life together even as the sins committed prior to their betrothal become apparent and Kristin struggles to come to terms with the pain she has caused. A fascinating tale, with very real characters and the rich detail of daily life, this novel would be recommend to anyone who appreciates historical fiction. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Feb 12, 2012 |
I read the first book in this trilogy years ago and struggled through it. At the time, I was told that the translation I happened to have was probably the hardest to plug through so I put off, and put off, and put off reading any further. But I wanted to because I had heard such wonderful things about this medieval set saga written by Nobel prize winner Undset. I don't really know what finally inspired me to pick up the second book this many years onward (good thing I have a decent memory for most books or I'd have been rather lost I suspect) but I am glad I did and am now looking forward to the third and final installment in Kristin Lavransdatter's life.

This portion of the saga starts with Kristin and Erlend arriving at Husaby, his ancestral estate, as they start their marriage. But Kristin and Erlend's life is not destined to be easy, even once they have the sanction of marriage, and Undset draws a full and captivating portrait of life in 1400's Norway. Domestic and political, male and female spheres, religion and secularity are all played out on a grand and a small scale, providing the reader with and intimate glimpse of a time long since passed from memory. Kristin is a strong and fascinating character but she has her faults. Erlend is weaker and more wayward as a character, a bigger picture thinker than his wife, who focuses on the small details. But their inability to temper each other's weaknesses in a true partnership leads them into great difficulty.

Once I settled into the language of this translation (and that took a bit), I was interested to see how Kristin and Erlend developed. In general I sympathized more with Kristin because she did so very much, always cognizant of the consequences of her actions. But there were times that I found myself getting annoyed with her, as if she was indeed a real person making poor choices and ill-advisedly holding onto grudges instead of a character in a book. The setting of the book was rich and well-detailed. And the historical imformation in the story line itself and in footnotes was fascinating since Norway's history is not even touched upon in classes in this country. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to live in the Middle Ages but I enjoy visiting there on occasion through the pages of a book. And I plan to visit Kristin in the last third of her story sooner rather than later. ( )
  whitreidtan | Mar 23, 2009 |
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Sigrid Undsetprimary authorall editionscalculated
Archer, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The evening before Simon's Mass, Baard Petersson's galleass lay in to the landing-place at Birgsi.
People today still take the pilgrimage road Kristin Lavransdatter journeys more than once in this novel, from Gudbrandsal up through Dovre to Saint Olav's shrine at Nidaros. (Introduction)
On the eve of Saint Simon's Day, Baard Petersøn's ship anchored at the spit near Birgsi.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141181281, Paperback)

In Kristin Lavransdatter (1920-1922), Sigrid Undset interweaves political, social, and religious history with the daily aspects of family life to create a colorful, richly detailed tapestry of Norway during the fourteenth-century. The trilogy, however, is more than a journey into the past. Undset's own life—her familiarity with Norse sagas and folklore and with a wide range of medieval literature, her experiences as a daughter, wife, and mother, and her deep religious faith—profoundly influenced her writing. Her grasp of the connections between past and present and of human nature itself, combined with the extraordinary quality of her writing, sets her works far above the genre of "historical novels." This new translation by Tina Nunnally—the first English version since Charles Archer's translation in the 1920s—captures Undset's strengths as a stylist. Nunnally, an award-winning translator, retains the natural dialog and lyrical flow of the original Norwegian, with its echoes of Old Norse legends, while deftly avoiding the stilted language and false archaisms of Archer's translation. In addition, she restores key passages left out of that edition.

Undset's ability to present a meticulously accurate historical portrait without sacrificing the poetry and narrative drive of masterful storytelling was particularly significant in her homeland. Granted independence in 1905 after five hundred years of foreign domination, Norway was eager to reclaim its national history and culture. Kristin Lavransdatter became a touchstone for Undset's contemporaries, and continues to be widely read by Norwegians today. In the more than 75 years since it was first published, it has also become a favorite throughout the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The second volume in the trilogy, The Wife (1921) continues the story of a passionate and willful woman in medieval Norway. Kristin is now married to Erlend Nikulausson, a man whose single-minded determination to become an influential social and political figure forces Kristin to take over the management of Erlend's estate, Husbay, while raising their seven sons. Once again, Undset presents the rich historical detail and compelling characters that make her Norway's most beloved author.… (more)

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