December Slow Read: Kristin Lavransdatter

December's Slow Read is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. This is a monthly feature by Patricia Bochi inviting readers to (re)discover a work that’s so rich and delightful it calls for slow reading to appreciate it fully.

From the 1995 Norwegian Adaptation of Kristin Lavransdatter

By Patricia Bochi

December is upon us and with it the hectic schedule of the holidays. So why not take some time to curl up with a good book, a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of sherry, and escape into another world? We think Kristin Lavransdatter by Norwegian novelist Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) might be the perfect book. And at 1,168 pages, it is a slow read.

Published between 1920 and 1922, Kristin Lavransdatter is an epic trilogy (The Wreath, The Wife, The Cross) for which its author won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. In 2005 the work became more accessible to the English-speaking world thanks to a new translation by Tiina Nunnally.

The work narrates the life cycle of Kristin Lavransdatter in 14th-century Norway. Although a work of fiction, the book conveys a strong realism and is peopled with characters that come alive through their complexity and human emotions.


“In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in 14th-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.

As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.

With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author — one of the 20th century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds — and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.” — Penguin Classics

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