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.
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.