I have just finished The Cross, the last of the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy by the award winning author Sigrid Undset. I think the kudos for a beautifully rendered translation goes to Tina Nunnally. When I blogged about books that are true and therefore speak to us in harmony with natural law, I was still reading Unset. She shows a profound grasp of human life, love and struggle. She writes from the viewpoint and soul of Kristen as a child, young girl in love, wife and mother of seven sons and mistress of a great house to her old age and the final realisation of her life and struggle, brought about by a sudden opportunity to make an astonishing act of mercy.
Undset’s deep understanding of human nature and the consequences of choices and actions make all the characters of the book very real and believable.
Kristen’s relationship with her saintly father Lavrans and the more difficult relationship with her mother is drawn sympathetically while avoiding saccharine and vinegar in her description of Kristin’s parents.
Undset’s deep knowledge of history also shines in this story. There are no glaring historical errors to irritate the reader. In fact, there are some details that ring so true that they left me saying “Ah so that’s it!”
While the story is placed in fourteenth century Norway, it has a timeless quality to it, most probably because of the depth of the characters and the fact that human nature has changed little, if at all. I love the complexity of Kristin’s life, love and faith. She commits some truly awful sins, and has to wrestle with her conscience, pride and guilt over them.
Life is way too short to spend reading what Miss Charlotte would call “twaddle” and too short indeed to read trash, so why not make every moment count by reading something good for the heart, mind and soul. This trilogy is it.
A more eloquent review is here: Under Her Heart: Motherhood in Kristen Lavransdatter.
This set of books will be read again (I hope) by me.