Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Classic Lit: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Publisher: Penguin
Translator: Tiina Nunnally
Date: 1920-1922 (2005)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased new
Read: for Historical Novels course
Pages: 1125
Reading time: three weeks

From GoodReads: 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. 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 Nikulauss√łn, 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.

My review: This started out really boring - I swear, Sigrid Unset had to describe every. single. detail. for the first couple of chapters. But that soon lifted, and I enjoyed the rest of the first volume. I was never a fan of Kristin, as I felt like we never really got to see inside her, and I didn't find her likeable anyway. For the main character, she seemed surprisingly one-dimensional or perhaps just closed off to readers. However, as we've already established, I like classic stories of society and romantic intrigues, and the first volume fit this model quite well.

But then the other two volumes were all about Kristin's life once married and as she and Erlend have children and age, and it's really boring and repetitive. Like, 800 pages of her moaning about guilt and religion, stressing over her irresponsible husband and her kids, having yet more pregnancies and sons, and people dying boring and repetitive. I see why the film version only covers the first volume - if not necessarily a chore to read, the other two just aren't all that interesting, at least to me as a younger reader. And with all the deaths and not-great marriages, it's depressing, too. Well, five chunksters for this Historical Novel class down, two more to go.

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