Friday, January 25, 2019

The Wife by Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdatter, Vol. II

Two years ago I read the first volume of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy (The Wreath) for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and I really enjoyed it.  I'd been meaning to complete the series so I decided on the second volume, The Wife, for this years' challenge. [Note: minor spoilers for the first volume are in this post].

The Wife covers about fifteen years, immediately following Kristin's marriage at the end of the first book, as Kristin and Erland adjust to married life, and Kristin begins managing Erland's estate, which has fallen into disrepair during his long absence. She bears his children and he becomes involved in political intrigues regarding the child king Magnus and his mother Ingebjorg, the Queen Regent, who are now ruling over Norway and Sweden. We also meet Erland's brother, a priest; and learn the fate of Kristin's parents and younger sister, as well as her former suitor, Simon. 

This volume was a little slower for me -- there was a lot more emphasis on religion and politics. The politics in particular were more difficult, as I found the names hard to keep straight. I thought about researching the history, but realized it mind end up spoiling the plot -- plus there's a third volume, so I decided to wait. I did read the introduction after I finished the book (which did have spoilers, so good thing I waited). There was a LOT of Norwegian history which was very condensed and I got even more confused. 

However, I did really enjoy learning about life in Medieval Norway. I love historical fiction, though I tend to read more about the 18th through the early 20th century. However, it did bother me how much Catholic guilt Kristin was suffering regarding the circumstances of her marriage, which seemed to recur over and over -- I get that the Church was incredibly influential, but it seemed like she was beating herself up about it constantly. 

The last third of the book has some political intrigue that seemed right out of Game of Thrones -- I could definitely picture this as an HBO series, though I suppose it's basically just been done, but with dragons. There was a plot twist with Erland's fate that I wasn't expecting. And now on to Volume III which covers the Black Death! I definitely won't wait as long between reading the last two volumes -- I had forgotten quite a few details in the gap between the first two.  

I'm counting this as my Classic by a Woman Author for the Back to the Classics Challenge. 


  1. I read this series about 15 years ago and enjoyed it very much! It was one of my early experiences with different translations. Purchased the old one first and bogged down, then switched to Nunnally and breezed though all three... within a year. I also tend to forget details if I wait too long between installments.

    1. I was able to catch up eventually with what was happening, but I was surprised that I had forgotten so many of the details! I suppose I just have too many other books and plots (not to mention TV and movies) in my head!

  2. Hi Karen,
    I followed the link to your review of The Wreath a year ago, and found my comment, which is in fresh in my mind today as it was a year ago. Because I read the first in the series in the late 1990s, I really must read it again before moving on to 2 and 3. I'm penciling it in for my Classics Reads in 2020, but maybe, I'll have time to reread Volume One this year. I was so interested in comments about different translations!! And I loved both of your reviews. Oh, how I wish we could settle in with coffee or tea and have a good buzz about it!

    1. I wish I could chat with you about it as well! I'm so grateful for the blogging community to have online discussions about books. I do have a real-life book group but we tend to read more contemporary books, though I do try to sneak in classics every so often. It's a little harder to get people to read the more obscure classics, it seems like book groups end up reading the same old classics over and over.