Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy

DSC_0048r2I believe this post on Kristin Lavransdatter will be more popular than last, -at least, this trilogy is better known and well read everywhere around me.

Sigrid Undset was born in Denmark, but her family moved to Norway when she was two years old. She was a novelist that was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928.

Her best-known work is Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy about life in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, portrayed through the experiences of a woman from birth until death. Its three volumes were published between 1920 and 1922.


Author Sigrid Undset

Her trilogy on the life of Kristin Lavransdatter, daughter (datter) of Lavrans, gained some new interest when her work was translated for a second time in 1997 by the award winning translator Tiina Nunnally. The previous translation had been done in older English, and had censored a few things.

The picture with the three books from different publishers is my own picture. I found them separately for a good price. When you buy them, if you are interested in getting Nunnally’s translation, be sure the edition states her as the translator. The only other translation doesn’t mention who did it, it only mentions Sigrid Undset as the writer.

The trilogy was brought up to my attention a few years ago by a few homeschooling moms at a forum, who spoke highly of it. At that time, I read book 1, The Wreath. Impervious as I am towards romance, the book felt a bit like a YA type of book. In hindsight, now that I’ve read the 3 books, I’d say they all have a different tone, and book one, with a young Kristin and Erlend, was full of reckless behavior, and faster paced than the other two, but not at all superficial.

At the end of book 1, something moved me to go back to Medieval Norway, and keep finding out what was of Kristin’s life and those around her. The Wife, book 2, didn’t disappoint. This trilogy gained new heights for me. Undset kept weaving a complex yet unassuming tapestry full of characters, human emotions, history, customs, and unforgettable pictures of the Norwegian landscape. She took me there, she gave me a privileged position, -that of a fly on a wall, and I was there as Kristin had her children, and her marriage entered a new phase.


Undset at work in her study

After book #2, I faithfully started book #3, but life took me to different paths, and I quit after a few pages. Three years later, I decided to read the last book in the trilogy. It took me a little bit, but it all came back to me, and soon, I was once more immersed in the life of Kristin and her kin, enveloped by the air, the seasons, their comings and goings, walking towards the last stage of her life.

I don’t wish to talk much about the plot or characters. I would love for anyone considering the trilogy, to enter as I did, not knowing anything other than it’s worth their reading investment. Now that I’ve read them all, I do enjoy reviews where they elaborate about Kristin and the others. But not this review, -my reviews are never too elaborated, they are simply my impressions on books, maybe some facts of interest, that’s all.


Nunnally in her study

I know that for many, this trilogy has a special relevance since the book is also a portrayal of the catholic faith. For me, that aspect was significant as a historical depiction of Medieval Catholic Norway, and, despite of not sharing faith with Kristin nor with Undset, I appreciated being witness of Kristin’s spiritual conflicts and the development of her beliefs and those around her. The spiritual facets of the book are ingrained in the life of the characters, in the times they are living. I benefited from reading it the same I do benefit and enjoy reading Dostoevsky, -even though I’m not an Orthodox christian either. Sigrid Undset must have been in love with her country. There’s so much respect and admiration for Norway, its people, customs, the land.

I can only say I’m glad to have traveled back in time, and to have met Kristin and the others. I closed the last page sad, but thankful for Undset’s generosity. She did not spare us anything, she offered a lavish banquet, and I’m pleased to have come to her invitation.

9 thoughts on “Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy

  1. I just bought a copy of The Wife and it’s on my list for next year! I’m looking forward to it!

  2. I just finished today. Since we had a snow day, I have time to start another book, but this one leaves such an impact that I don’t want to pick one up yet. She presents her characters in such a way that the reader feels like praying for them or even having masses said for them!

    I will write up a blog post on it before long.

  3. If you approach it as 3 separate books, it may feel easier, but I know you can go for the big volume with the 3 books in one.

  4. This is a lovely teaser that inspires me to look into this monumental classic again! I think I tried to read it in my twenties but I did not have enough stamina. I’m really interested in the portrait of a medieval woman’s life now.

  5. I’ve only read the first one and a little of the second. I really enjoyed what I read, just get bogged down in my TBR pile. Thanks for your thoughtful look at it. I love your copies, I think they are beautiful!

  6. I’ll be reading the first book with my real life book club in a couple of months. I think I’m more interested in her Master of Hestviken books for some reason but am anticipating getting into her work.

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