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Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1999

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About the Author

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) was a Norwegian writer best known for her three- volume medieval epic, Kristin Lavransdatter and the four-volume The Master of Hestviken. She won the Nobel Prize in 1928.

Tiina Nunnally's translation of Peter Hoeg's bestseller Smilla's Sense of Snow won the Lewis Galantiere Prize, given by the American Translators Association. Her translation for the Penguin Classics Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath was nominated for the PEN Center USA West Translation Award.

Sherrill Harbison is a Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College and an Associate of the Five Colleges. She is also the editor of the Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics editions of Undset's Gunnar's Daughter and Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark.
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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 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sammy Jo on July 16, 2002
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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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Edmond Bliven on April 13, 2000
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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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Leo Schulte on March 12, 2000
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Greenfield on September 24, 2012
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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