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Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 1, 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

Winner of the 2014 Type Directors Club Communication Design Award

Praise for Kristin Lavransdatter:

“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.”
–PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize citation
Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

"[Penguin Drop Caps] convey a sense of nostalgia for the tactility and aesthetic power of a physical book and for a centuries-old tradition of beautiful lettering."
Fast Company

“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
—Rex Bonomelli, The New York Times


"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Norwegian

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; F First Paperback Edition Used edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141180412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Tedholm on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I was about 12 I tried to read Kristin Lavransdatter, and gave up quickly. The Archer translation was filled with "difficult" language: medieval archaisms seemed to slow down the language somehow. Kristin was written in the 1920s and takes place in the middle ages, but the archer translation (the one most readily available) alienated me from it so much that I gave up. Nunally's language is fresh and clear. It doesn't have the artificial ring of a translation. I don't know Norwegian, but I feel like she stayed as close as she could to Undset's original syntax and language.
Oh, and the story is great, too. The timeless problems of forbidden love, children born out of wedlock, and familial conflicts are presented through the eyes of a perfectly ordinary woman: Kristin Lavransdatter. It's been said she was the first perfectly real woman in all literature. In "The Wreath," the reader encounters Kristin's early life to her marriage and the difficult decisions she makes. Nunally writes of Kristin's actions without condemnation, but with compassion. I think this impartiality gives the book more power. THe reader is left to judge Kristin. Also, this is not one of those overwrought books in which every sentence must be analyzed for symbolism. One can read into Kristin Lavransdatter on many levels, but it does not consist wholly of linguistic capering as so many modern novels do. At the very least, it's just a great story with some extremely memorable characters.
Undset was the first woman to win the Nobel prize for literature, and largely because of Archer's *hesitation* LOUSY translations, she's fallen into obscurity in the USA, at least. Hopefully with the advent of Nunally's fresh new translations of Kristin Lavransdatter and Jenny, Undset will once more reappear on the literary landscape.
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Format: Paperback
At last we have a readable translation of the first volume of KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER, THE WREATH, one which is faithful to Sigrid Undset's style in Norwegian. I have to admit I could never read the old one all the way through because of the creaky, pseudo-medieval style the translators adopted -- it sounds like a bad Sir Walter Scott parody. I do read Norwegian myself, and can vouch for the faithfulness and accuracy of Tiina Nunnally's translation. Her style is fluid, clear, and lyrical, reflecting Undset's style perfectly. Readers who have struggled through all the archaic lingo such as 'tis, 'twas, wot, trow, and methinks are in for a treat. Volume 2 of the trilogy, THE WIFE, will be out in 1999.
KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER is a historical soap opera par excellence set in medieval Norway. The headstrong heroine does not always do what is "best" for her by the standards of this quite strict Catholic society, and her love affair with the dashing Erlend Nikulaussøn gets her in plenty of hot water with her family -- not to mention her betrothed, Simon Darre.
I predict this new version will banish the old one to dustbins and library sales once all three volumes are released. And let's hope that Penguin Books will see fit to publish them all together in a handsome clothbound edition.
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By A Customer on February 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Pay no attention to anyone who says the book is "slow" or "hard to read", unless they were talking about some other translation. Tina Nunnally's translation lets Sigrid Undet's genius shine through at last. (The previous translation was dreadful.) The first volume of "Kristin Lavransdatter" brings you the full spectrum of medieval life, from the constant threat of violence to the ambiguous attitudes on sexuality, the hyper-religiosity at odds with a still-thriving pagan sensuality that wants to legitimize itself. The character of Kristin shows all these conflicts and how they might have played out in the soul of a woman who will not let herself be treated as property in a patriarchal society. Make sure you buy this translation! I cannot wait for the third volume to be published in April 2000.
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Format: Paperback
If you like historical novels, this is the book for you. Sigrid Undset meticulously researched life in Norway during the Middle Ages, and she brings that world to life for us in her classic trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter. The story is great to boot. Undset won the Nobel Prize for literature, and this is her finest work.
The Wreath is the first novel in the series, and in it we follow Kristin as she comes of age. She is a passionate girl, and this is the story of her passion. We might want to read the tale as the story of a girl overcoming the obstacles of her era to realize her dreams, but there is more to the story than that. Kristin's romance with Erland Nikulausson creates havoc in all the lives around them. Undset was a convert to Catholicism, and this is a Catholic novel. Kristin finds her true love, yes. But will it bring her true happiness? Undset presents the heroine's plight with sympathy, but she presents the consequences of her choices with honesty. This first novel sets the stage, and in the next two we will follow on Kristin's journey to know herself and the world around her. It's a great novel about a great life.
While Kristin is the focus of the novel, Undset also fully brings to life her family and friends. We meet some great characters along the way. From Arne Gyrdson, Kristin's devoted childhood friend to Fru Aashild, the wise woman who teaches her much about the ways of the world, to Brother Edvin, the saintly monk who offers her spiritual direction, we meet characters that we will long remember. The relationship of Kristin's parents Lavrans and and Rangfrid is especially poignant.
To enter gingerly into the translation wars, I have read both versions. For myself, I prefer this one.
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