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Kristin Lavransdatter: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 27, 2005
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“[Sigrid Undset] should be the next Elena Ferrante . . . whose huge commercial success suggests there is a market for series in translation about fierce, complicated women navigating their culturally conservative European milieu. . . . If HBO is looking for its next miniseries, it should give Kristin Lavransdatter the proper adaptation it deserves. Rereading the trilogy this fall, I kept thinking of Olive Kitteridge, another powerful novel about a prickly mother turned into a worthy HBO miniseries. This trilogy includes illicit sex, affairs, a church fire, an attempted rape, ocean voyages, rebellious virgins cooped up in a convent, predatory priests, an attempted human sacrifice, floods, fights, murders, violent suicide, a gay king, drunken revelry, the Bubonic Plague, deathbed confessions, and sex that makes its heroine ache ‘with astonishment—that this was the iniquity that all the songs were about.’ ” —Ruth Graham, Slate
“[My favorite fictional hero or heroine is] probably Sigrid Undset’s strong-willed, sensual, self-destructive and ultimately rock-solid Kristin Lavransdatter. . . . Kristin’s eponymous trilogy bears many rereadings. Right away one somehow identifies with this daughter of medieval Norway; soon one compassionates her in her sufferings. . . . For all her faults [she] inspires love in many around her, including this reader. Her faith and loyalty make her quite beautiful to me. Like Murasaki and Dos Passos, Undset tells the story of a whole life.” —William T. Vollman, The New York Times Book Review
“We consider it the best book our judges have ever selected and it has been better received by our subscribers than any other book.” —Book-of-the-Month Club
“The finest historical novel our 20th century has yet produced; indeed it dwarfs most of the fiction of any kind that Europe has produced in the last twenty years.” —Contemporary Movements in European Literature
“As a novel it must be ranked with the greatest the world knows today.” —Montreal Star
“Sigrid Undset’s trilogy embodies more of life, seen understandingly and seriously . . . than any novel since Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. It is also very probably the noblest work of fiction ever to have been inspired by the Catholic art of life.” —Commonweal
“The first great story founded upon the normal events of a normal woman’s existence. It is as great and as rich, as simple and as profound, as such a story should be.” —Des Moines Register
“No other novelist, past or present, has bodied forth the medieval world with such richness and fullness of indisputable genius. . . . One of the finest minds in European literature.” —New York Herald Tribune
“A master . . . writing in a prose as vigorous, articulate and naturalistic as the novel it re-creates, Tiina Nunnally brilliantly captures a world both remote and strangely familiar.” —Judges’ citation, PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize
From the Inside Flap
"The finest historical novel our 20th century has yet produced; indeed it dwarfs most of the fiction of any kind that Europe has produced in the last twenty years."
-- Contemporary Movements in European Literature, edited by William Rose and J. Isaacs
"As a novel it must be ranked with the greatest the world knows today." -- Montreal Star
"Sigrid Undset's trilogy embodies more of life, seen understandingly and seriously... than any novel since Dostoievsky's Brothers Karamazov. It is also very probably the noblest work of fiction ever to have been inspired by the Catholic art of life." -- Commonweal
"No other novelist, past or present, has bodied forth the medieval world with such richness and fullness of indisputable genius.... One of the finest minds in European literature."
-- New York Herald Tribune
"This trilogy is the first great story founded upon the normal events of a normal woman's existence. It is as great and as rich, as simple and as profound, as such a story should be."
-- Ruth Suckow in the Des Moines Register --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This story starts slowly, like a locomotive, but by the end it builds a staggering, devastating momentum that still swirls in my mind, months after finishing the novel for the second time.
If you like treason, torture, betrayal, drunken assaults, bar fights, sword fights, political intrigue, charging bears, brothels, plague, poison, suicide, damsels in distress, black magic, and human sacrifice, you'll find it in these pages.
And if you like stories of spiritual quests, coming of age and reflections from age, the bonds between fathers and daughters, and of mothers and sons, platonic love, unrequited love, doomed love, the joys of children, the inextinguishable anguish of burying children, the circle of life that never stops turning, and the most tender, heartbreaking passages I've ever read of the love between a mother and her child, you'll find even more of it in Kristin's life story.
And to all the smug reviewers who chastise Kristin and wish they could have just slapped some sense into her, I say this: can you really imagine that Kristin could have led her life any other way? My answer is this:
"All that happened and would happen was meant to be. Everything happens as it is meant to be." (p. 289, "The Cross")
Kristin is not a saint, but neither is she a cautionary tale. As long as we humans can love and live, we will love well, love madly and sometimes love foolishly, and we'll tell stories about it. And this story of Kristin is for me the truest love story ever told, and I will never forget her.
There are no real evil occurrences in the story, only characters with true conflicting emotions, frailties and self reflections on their part in a dire political and religious and stark landscape. One of my favorite quotes of this book seems to reflect this: " Many a man is given what is intended for another, but no one is given another man's fate".
The author uses many flashbacks ( which took me awhile to adjust to ) to aid in the narrative. There were also very few moments of levity to distract from the rather dark atmosphere of the story. The politics of the Scandinavian countries was unfamiliar to me but eventually the relevance to part of the storyline is revealed. While the book did have strong Christian themes, ( as the Christian religion had only recently taken hold in the region ), it did not distract me from the overall enjoyment but only added to the brilliance of the book.
This book is easily one of my now favorite books and one to be read and reread over the course of time. I only wish I had discovered it years ago. " Kristin Lavransdatter " was a fully engrossing novel that should appeal to readers of " The Heaven Tree " trilogy and to a lesser degree, Anya Seton's " Katherine ".
I think the one thing modern readers like myself will never fully understand is Kristin’s marrow-deep Catholic guilt over the sin she committed as a teenager, by sleeping with her husband and becoming pregnant before they married. Kristin stews about this her entire life.
The descriptions of life and customs in the Medieval period are fascinating, I’m sure they are what won the author the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928. I read a previous translation, but this new one by Tiina Nunnally is superior in every way, it captures the beauty of Undset’s prose and makes the mountains and fjords of Norway come alive.