Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Almost a Peasant

Review of Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Overall this was an enjoyable, though long read. I guess a trilogy in one volume sort of guarantees that. Anyway, I preferred the first and third books (The Wreath and The Cross) to the second one (The Wife), probably because the second book seemed to zoom out a bit--years passed between chapters, etc. Also, there was more political detail in the second book that I didn't have a good handle on and I didn't feel like researching beyond the end notes.

Undset did a good job of setting the historical scene and keeping her characters within it while at the same time not making them inaccessible. For example, there was a great scene in the cloister dining hall in which Kristin was trying to daintily serve herself with three fingers and cut meat with her knife but ended up cutting her finger and shooting her portion onto the floor. I also loved the details about the clothes, dwelling places, and mystical creatures. The author managed to make this all seem real, not like a reenactment of any kind.

The central relationship between Kristin and her husband was also quite compelling. It seemed true to married life that because she'd had to forgive him for big things, she had trouble forgiving him for the smaller, daily sins.

I would highly recommend this book. It gave me an unprecedented view into family life in medieval Norway.

1 comment:

Ana T. said...

Thanks for your review Elena. I have this one in the TBR pile and you made me want to pick it up.