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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) was born in Denmark, the eldest daughter of a Norwegian father and a Danish mother. Two years after her birth, the family moved to Oslo, where her father, a distinguished archaeologist, taught at the university. Her father's interest in the past had a tremendous influence on Undset. She was particularly entranced by the dramatic Old Norse sagas she read as a child, later declaring that her exposure to them marked "the most important turning point in my life."

Undset's first published works—the novel Mrs. Marta Oulie (1907) and a short-story collection The Happy Age (1908)—were set in contemporary times and achieved both critical and popular success. With her reputation as a writer well-established, Undset had the freedom to explore the world that had first fired her imagination, and in Gunnar's Daughter (1909) she drew upon her knowledge of Norway's history and legends, including the Icelandic Sagas, to recreate medieval life with compelling immediacy. In 1912 Undset married the painter Anders Castus Svarstad and over the next ten years faced the formidable challenge of raising three stepchildren and her own three off-spring with little financial or emotional support from her husband. Eventually, she and her children moved from Oslo to Lillehammer, and her marriage was annulled in 1924, when Undset converted to Catholicism.

Although Undset wrote more modern novels, a collection of essays on feminism, as well as numerous book reviews and newspaper articles, her fascination with the Middle Ages never ebbed, and in 1920 she published The Wreath, the first volume of her most famous work, Kristin Lavransdatter. The next two volumes quickly followed—The Wife in 1921, and The Cross in 1922. The trilogy earned Undset worldwide acclaim, and her second great medieval epic—the four-volume The Master of Hestviken (1925-1927) —confirmed her place as one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. In 1928, at the age of 46, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature, only the third woman to be so honored.

Undset went on to publish more novels—including the autobiographical The Longest Years—and several collections of essays during the 1930s. As the Germans advanced through Norway in 1940, Undset, an outspoken critic of Nazism, fled the country and eventually settled in Brooklyn, New York. She returned to her homeland in 1945, and two years later she was awarded Norway's highest honor for her "distinguished literary work and for service to her country." The years of exile, however, had taken a great toll on her, and she died of a stroke on June 10, 1949.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Most romance novels present us with the trials and tribulations of star-crossed lovers, who in the end marry and live happily ever after. The first volume of Sigrid Undset's fine trilogy, THE WREATH, took us through the romance between Kristin Lavransdatter and Erland, concluding in their wedding. Unlike most romance novels, however, that novel foreshadowed the difficulties that the protagonists were likely to encounter in marriage. THE WIFE is the story of that marriage, with all of its strengths and weaknesses.
Once again, Undset succeeds in depicting a wide range of real people, in all their human glory. Kristin begins the novel with a pilgrimage in penance for her sin (she was already pregnant on her wedding day), and while she finds forgiveness, she struggles through the rest of the novel to learn how to forgive her husband. Erland begins the novel as an irresponsible man who seems lucky to have someone like Kristin. By the end of the novel, we see him rising above anything that could have been expected of him as he faces torture and imprisonment with dignity. There are no good guys and bad guys here, just human beings doing their best, yet struggling with their own passions and limitations. Undset's insight into the human condition is remarkable. And while Kristin and Erland do not achieve the illusory, romantic happiness that is celebrated in most romance novels, they find themselves with something much richer: a marriage in which a husband and a wife have learned to love each other in full knowledge of their mutual failings.
Undset was a great student of human nature, and she particularly understood our failings and our need to find redemption. By the end of the novel, Kristin has learned much in life, but her journey is not yet over. And so we move on to the final volume, THE CROSS.
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Format: Paperback
Sigrid Undset was the first woman to win the Nobel prize for literature. Since Kristin Lavransdatter was first published in America in the 1920s, succeeding generations have read it and found Kristin and Erland's story resonated in their hearts in a way that few books do. Undset has the rare gift of understanding the inner feelings of men as well as women.
Those who have struggled with the artificially archaic language of Charles Archer's translation will welcome this new version by Tiina Nunnally. She has also restored some parts that Archer eliminated, perhaps because he found them too sexually explicit for readers of English in the 1920s.
But, by all means start with the first volume, which, with volume III, is also available in the Nunnally translation.
Edmond Bliven
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Format: Paperback
Sigrid Undset perfectly captures one of the essential personal conflicts of the Middle Ages: the strictures of the Church and a patriarchal society on love and marriage. Having followed her heart and her feelings of love, Kristin is unfortunately therefore placed at odds with her family and the Church. Her search for reconciliation (or at least some accomodation) is fascinating, a marvelous spiritual journey. The typical medieval mind often had the terror of hellfire hanging over it, and we see this in the early part of this novel, as Kristin, full of guilt, makes a pilgrimage with her newborn son to find redemption. The politics of feudalism eventually intrude and complicate her life, as her husband becomes more involved in court intrigues. This translation is most excellent: it beats the silly pseudo-Old English one from the 1920's. I hope Tiina Nunnally will eventually translate all of Undset's works!
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Format: Paperback
I've just finished this second volume, and am waiting anxiously to begin the third. For those reading my review who have not yet read this second volume, I will try hard not to spoil your enjoyment by letting out too many elements of the story. I would also like to warn the potential reader not to read the Introduction until after you have finished this volume, since it too reveals details of the story that might spoil it for some readers. This story covers the years 1321 to 1335. According to the Introduction, Kristin is born in 1302, and so this novel takes us up to her 33rd year.

This is one of those novels that will take you away into another world, medieval Norway of the early 1300's. It's a world so foreign to ours today that in many ways it almost resembles a work of fantasy. The characters might well be living on another planet. To really enjoy this novel, you will need to keep a notebook at your side order to keep the enormous number of characters and the familial relationships straight. There is a large carryover of characters from the first novel, and the addition of many new ones. It will also help to read a little in Wikipedia about the kings of Norway, especially Haakon V and Magnus VII, about Erling Vidkunsson, Queen Ingeborg, and Knut Porse. I can only imagine that without some effort to keep track of the characters and their inter-relationships, the reader may grow confused and discouraged, despite the masterful writing and translation.

The characters in this novel are very finely wrought, some more than others. As for Kristin, she is perhaps the most complex character of all, and is not easy for the reader to sympathize with or understand. In many ways, she does not seem to dominate this novel as much as some of the other characters.
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