Author: Sigrid Undset. Translater: Tiina Nunnally
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback Edition: 1124 pages, The Cross – p. 703-1124
Source: Personal copy
The author won the Nobel Prize in Literature for this novel of 14th century Norway. This beloved classic tells the story of a passionate and headstrong woman, Kristin Lavransdatter. Few novels compare. Readers and critics often speak of the transporting nature of certain genres and certain novels. No story has ever had the transporting power for me that this one owns. The lyrical beauty of the writing, the ability of this author to make medieval Norway come alive: it’s daily life, the weather, the qualities of the natural surroundings, the politics and the people seem to this reader to be unequaled in any other novel I have ever read. And the story is one that makes one lose all thought of the pages, except to keep on turning them.
Though it is unusual for readers to read such a long book twice, I have just completed my second reading. I was introduced to this book by my niece perhaps twenty years ago. I read it and loved it. As frequent readers of this blog may remember I bought a lovely paperback edition a few years ago at a writer’s conference. It includes an inviting introduction, all three volumes of the trilogy with references and explanatory notes. The font is completely readable. Last winter I read the first two volumes. Perhaps because I remembered that volume three tells the story of the later years of Kristin’s life and endings for her great love Erlend Nikulausson, years of deep sadness, I put the book aside with that last volume still to be read.
The minute I began reading The Cross a few days ago, I was again deep into the lives of Kristin, Erlend and their seven sons. Living with Kristin and her family is simply a wonderful place to be. In spite of some sadness, I enjoyed my time with her and her family in medieval Norway, in a way I have dwelt in no other story. For all this reader has said about the elements of this great story, none is stronger than the author’s ability with plot. It is as if she can think herself into the 14th century. She draws characters and action together in a manner that is completely enthralling and believable. No fallen woman in literature is more beloved than Kristin Lavransdatter.
It is with a full heart that I thank all those who brought me this reading experience. And I urge readers not to be daunted by three volumes or the ancient setting. It is quite simply my all time favorite reading experience.