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Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter

by Sigrid Undset

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kristin Lavransdatter (Omnibus)

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2,162594,454 (4.23)1 / 473

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English (58)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Amazing book! I have many Scandinavian ancestors. Reading this book explains so much about my family's behavior. I can more clearly see that it is due to generational trauma passed down the generations; created from trying to conform to religious ideas of purity. This makes me wonder how Christianity was forced upon them in the first place. This religion is not natural and does not fit in with the needs of our bodies and minds, as shown by this book.

The writing is so well done that I can clearly see the people, taste the food, and smell the land. Her descriptive language is some of the best I've ever read. I feel as if I were there with Kristen Lavransdattter, feeling her loves and sorrows. ( )
  SonoranDreamer | Mar 21, 2019 |
Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for this story with its descriptions of life in 14th century Norway.

In the first book, [The Wreath], the story follows Kristin from childhood with her caring father, Lavrans, to her marriage to Erlend Nikulausson.

The second book, [The Wife], follows Kristin and Erlend through their passionate and turbulent marriage raising seven sons.

The third book, [The Cross], takes Kristin through the remainder of her life as she tries to resolve differences with her husband, watches her sons become men, and eventually finding herself alone tries to reconcile her life with her faith and becomes a nun.

Religion and faith have a big part in this trilogy, as it depicts medieval Scandinavian morals and customs. Kristin struggles through life trying to be the best she can be.

This book landed on my wishlist because of Rebeccanyc’s recommendation and review, which you can find on the book page. The Tiina Nunnally translation was also her recommendation. It was well worth the 45 hours of listening time.

Read October 2018 ( )
  NanaCC | Dec 31, 2018 |
Two thirds of the way through this mighty trilogy, I’ve decided to review each of the books separately because I’m reading it concurrently with other books and I might lose the thread if I don’t. The Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Norwegian Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) consists of three books: The Wreath (Kransen); The Wife (Husfrue); and The Cross (Korset), and the whole book in this Penguin Classics edition runs to 1124 pages.
Originally published between 1922 and 1924, before Undset became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in 1928 ‘principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages’, this trilogy of historical novels tells the story of a scandalous woman in the Middle Ages. The central character, Kristin Lavransdatter is described in the introduction by Brad Leithauser as a daddy’s girl who refuses daddy’s choice of a husband and marries for love, with often harrowing long-range consequences. She is headstrong and wilful and she defies the conventions of her age.
Not knowing anything much about Norwegian or indeed Scandinavian literature, (and no, there isn’t an Oxford Very Short Introduction to it either) I’m not able to place this trilogy in context. In Britain and in France, late 19th and early 20th century authors such as John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola were writing novels that showed sympathetically the consequences of women breaking the conventions of their age (and the way men were judged by different standards). Sigrid’s literary debut was (according to Wikipedia) a novella set in her own era and about adultery: Fru Marta Oulie (1907) scandalised its readers because it begins with ‘I have been unfaithful to my husband’. So at 25, Undset clearly wasn’t constrained by any compulsion to have a respectable central character!

(I'm rating this 3 because although I liked Bk 1, I'm sick of all the religious guilt trips in Bk 2. I may revise it up or down depending on Bk 3!)

To see my review of Part I, please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/12/05/the-wreath-kristin-lavransdatter-trilogy-1-b...

Following on from my previous post about The Wreath (Kransen, Book 1 of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy), I turn now to Book 2, The Wife (Husfrue). It was starting Book 3 The Cross (Korset) that made me decide to reread both Books 1 and 2 because there is such a plethora of characters that I had lost track of who some of them were, and the author didn’t always signal their previous roles and relationships. This may have been because the books were bestsellers in their time, and were released so soon after each other between 1922 and 1924, that Undset could assume that her readers didn’t need reminding. Whatever about that, my journal is full of ever-expanding family trees and cross-references. Not all readers may need this, of course, but I think it would be helpful if someone added a tree or two to the Wikipedia entry for this book, as some thoughtful person has done for Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle.
Book 2, The Wife, is all about the chickens coming home to roost for wilful Kristin Lavransdatter who married her lover against the counsel of all the wiser heads around her. Motherhood and the management of a neglected estate is a challenging coming-of-age for her, and though we see some growth in maturity for her impulsive husband, fatherhood is not accompanied by much of a coming-of-age for him, because he remains a perpetual adolescent in many ways. Other characters have to come to terms with events as well: Lavrans learns that he was wrong to judge as harshly as he did; Erlend’s brother has to acknowledge his own dubious motives; a king has to recognise the limits of his power. They all learn that the truth will out and that secrets can’t be kept for long.
The book begins with everyone gradually realising that Kristin was some months pregnant when she finally marries Erlend. At the time of the marriage at the end of Book 1, she knew, but had concealed it from everyone else, even her mother. But Kristin knew full well that the pomp and ceremony of the splendid wedding would become a source of mockery when the truth was revealed, and everyone would then know that she had had no business wearing the golden wreath that symbolised virginity for a well-born maiden.
In her new home at Husaby, there are poignant scenes where this teenage bride hides herself away to sew the layette but the servants know before long, and Erlend learns the truth as she thickens round the middle. From the first, it’s not a marriage built on trust or confronting shared problems together, and his first words to her about it are not kind. He berates her for keeping her pregnancy secret, but she says ‘You of all people should know that I have followed forbidden paths and acted falsely towards those who have trusted me most’. She might also have added that she always hurts those she loved the most too.
Though he slaps her during one of their arguments, Kristin isn’t afraid of Erlend: she is becoming aware of his weaknesses and because she loves him she seeks to protect him from the humiliation as much as possible. In this medieval world, he has treated her like a peasant girl and while he feels no shame she knows how it will be viewed by their community. His care of her is so lax that one of his friends has to prod him into calling in the local women to help with the birth.
There is nothing much Kristin can do to salvage things except to try the best she can to earn their respect by being a good wife. And her first task is get the neglected estate in order. It is filthy. The servants are slack. farm husbandry has been neglected and the bad harvest has made things worse. Erland has an extravagant lifestyle that is reliant not on his own hard work but rather on rents from tenants, but he mocks her knowledge of the tenant laws when she tries to remonstrate with him. There is a ghastly scene where his drunken relations poke fun at their hypocrisy of the ‘virgin’ marriage and Kristin is appalled at the vulgarity of the people at her table.
It is not until the child moves within her that they are reconciled.

To read the rest of my review of Book 2, please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/12/10/the-wife-kristin-lavransdatter-trilogy-2-by-... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Dec 5, 2018 |
Wish I'd read it when I was 16, then again as an adult. Very very good, and Kristin will be remembered in my mind for a long time, but not great, not the LOTR of a woman's life as its been compared IMHO. And everybody just lets you down. No real heroes here, except the heavenly father. Glad I read it. ( )
  fbswss | Jun 22, 2018 |
Book 1 - The Wreath

Kristin’s childhood, her attachment to her father, her betrothal to Simon Darre, she meets and falls in love with Erlend and starts meeting him secretly. Her betrothal is broken, and eventually Erlend convinces her father to allow him to marry Kristin. Unknown to everyone and to her shame, she is pregnant when they finally wed. She feels like she has betrayed her parents, broken her vows and disgraced herself.

Book 2 – The Wife

This second book covers Kristin’s young adult life. Her shame at bearing her first child early. She goes on to have seven sons (1 set of twins) and makes peace with both her parents. Her younger sister marries Simon. Erlend get involved in treason, is arrested and sentenced to death, but with the help of Simon and others, they are able to get the sentence commuted. After many years of her harsh treatment of Erlend and his hurt feelings and philandering, they are stronger together than ever at the close of this book. Erlend insults Simon by implying that he would have rather seen Erlend hanged so that he could finally have Kristin for himself.

Book 3 – The Cross

The third volume covers the later part of Kristin’s life, she sees her children becoming adults and growing away from her, and spends a great deal of time contemplating the condition of her moral soul as she remembers her past behavior. She and her husband have a bitter falling out and he leaves to live elsewhere and although they do make-up at one point, neither one will bend to the will of the other. This stubborn refusal to adapt to their partner leads to a tragedy and more anguish for the family. As Kristin’s life draws to a close, I was happy to see that this stubborn, determined woman did find a measure of peace.


This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction and as great as it is, this is so much more than the story of one woman’s life. This literary trilogy that was written in Norwegian in the early 1920’s includes many descriptions of Northern life during the middle ages. The daily customs, religious rituals, pagan practices and political situations are detailed and fascinating, not to mention the depiction of clothing, food, and decor which combine to create a master picture of Scandinavian life in the past. This book well deserves an international following and I am glad that this version, translated by Tina Nunnally, is currently available. I would recommend this book to all lovers of historical fiction. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jun 4, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sigrid Undsetprimary authorall editionscalculated
Archer, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bocca Radomska, EvelinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouveng, ToveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eurén, TeresiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leithauser, BradIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nunnally, TiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rondoni, DavideIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, J.S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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This record is for the trilogy complete set. Please do not add individual books of the trilogy to this record. Thank you!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039164, Paperback)

In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.

As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.

With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author—one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds—and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.

A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with French flaps and rough front
Includes a new introduction by Scandinavian literature expert Brad Leithauser especially commissioned for this edition

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Panorama of Norwegian life in the first half of the 14th century and the tumultous life of a woman, traces Kristin's life from childhood to death.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Ediciones Encuentro

3 editions of this book were published by Ediciones Encuentro.

Editions: 8474908647, 8474904277, 8499205240

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