I had intended to continue with the wives of Henry VIII today, but I wanted to re-read a book about Catherine of Aragon. So, instead, I present to you Kristin Lavrandatter by Nobel prize-winning Norwegian author Sigrid Undset, a master of historical fiction.
I visited Norway in July. I’d been pining for the fjords for many years. I wasn’t disappointed. The countryside is beautiful.
The fjords are beautiful.
The fashion bloggers are beautiful.
Agathe and Kristoffer, hand-in-hand. How romantic!
The wildlife is beautiful too. Well, maybe not this fellow.
I befriended a shabby old moose head on a rainy day in Bergen. I’m modeling my new Norwegian winter hat. The moose doesn’t seem impressed, does he?
While absorbing all this beauty, I read Kristin Lavransdatter, Undset’s epic about a woman in 14th century Norway. It’s a trilogy that runs more than a thousand pages long; make sure you get the translation by Tiina Nunnally. Kristin is seduced by Erlend Nikulausson while engaged to another man. Ultimately, Kristin and Erlend marry, but their relationship remains turbulent — reflecting an era which saw constant tension between Christianity and traditional superstition, moral ideals and real human behavior. I confess there were times when I was frustrated by Kristin. She can be so self-destructive. She will have an epiphany but revert to her old behavior. She ruins her present by brooding over past wrongs both committed and inflicted, and she is unable to forgive either herself or others. She obsesses over her “sins” till even her priest tells her such self-absorption is not penance but vanity.
But at the end, when Kristin is dying of the Black Death (I know this plot disclosure will not change your appreciation of the book and you’d learn it in the foreword anyway), there is a beautiful passage that made me realize what the book was about. I then went back and reread nearly the whole book. This time I saw how realistic the character was. In many books, there’s a storyline that gives artificial shape to the lives and personalities of the characters. But that’s not how life is. Like all of us, Kristin sometimes does better and sometimes does worse. She resolves to improve and fails, but then she makes progress that she can be truly proud of. Her character evolves over time in a way that’s very true. And here is the passage that I found so affecting. It relates her thoughts as she lies ill, looking at her wedding ring:
“The life to which this ring had married her, over which she had complained and grumbled, raged and rebelled. And yet she had loved it so, rejoicing over it, with both the bad and the good, so that there was not a single day she would have given back to God without lament or a single sorrow she would have relinquished without regret.”
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I’m sure tons of people could rock The Leggings; I have just always had an aversion to too much metallic. And thanks for the book recommendation- I’ve been running out of things to read.
I do book recommendations every Thursday (they’re all tagged “book club”) so feel free to browse around for those…and come back once a week! If you try Kristin Lavransdatter you’ll have something to read for a LONG time but it is worth it.
In Yr Fshn says
First things first: I CANNOT wait to read this book! It looks great and has a lot of things I love: Norway, turbulent romance, black death. (Not kidding–even as a youth I was so into the plague.)
Second: I love that picture of you with the moose because your hat is awesome and you look photoshopped in.
Okay, back to my Party of Five marathon. Oh yes, I will be doing a Po5 inspired post next week.
Is there a Party of Five jewelry theme?! You ARE a genius. Can’t wait for that. I’m soooooooo into the Black Death too 🙂 LOL! I know that sounds a little crazy. But the Decameron…I love it! I just got A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman (check it out on Amazon) but it’s going to take me a while to get to it because I’m trying to do a refresher course on the Henry VIII wives while I simultaneously tackle Empress Cixi. Whew!
You had me all misty and teary eyed until I read your last sentence and saw the picture of you pinching a rose. LOL.
ps I am glad that you gave away the ending because now i want to read it more.
wow u look gorgeous! and the bk sounds lyk fun!! diff frm my usual taste but i think i’ll gif it a go!
anyhow, you’ve been to japan?! wow. so do u haf any recommendations on the things to do/try? or the best places to shop ard? i cant wait!
ps. i’ll be at osaka and tokyo.
wow you were in norway at the same time i was!! And that moose is hot lol!
You’re adorable–you should pinch a rose!
In Yr Fshn says
I love that we are bonding over the black plague! The pustules! The fever! I also just love epidemics in general. A Prayer For the Dying by Stewart O’Nan is pretty wonderful and all about how a small town reacts to a an illness post Civil War. (But really, the Black Plague holds the dearest place in my heart out of all the epidemics.) I am going to look into A Distant Mirror immediately. I am going through books like water while I am sitting home sick.
Yes, there will be a Party of Five themed post! I’m working on it now and hope to have it up on Tuesday. And, god, the show is so cheesy, I considered doing my Po5 post just on cheese jewelry.
Lady, you need an organizer just to keep track of all these historical figures. So impressive!
I have all of Stewart O’Nan’s books! I went through a big obsession with him a few years ago. But, yes, the Plague is the best (LOL), since the social impact was so profound. But I must give the mysterious “sweating illness” of England its props! That was a good one too. They still don’t know what that really was!
I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO SCANDANAVIA it’s embarrasing to admit 🙁
I have been to the Danmark for an hour in the airport enroute to India, a place you should definitely visit!
I envy your trip.
Isn’t that book the size of a doorstop so not bedtime reading material?
Yep, the book is huge. I know you can get the three volumes separately but you want to make sure they’re translated by the translator I mention in my post. The other translation is NOT good.