Book Review: Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter narrates the epic romance of a serious woman and an unserious man. The latter is just serious enough to resent the former’s resentment of his unseriousness, resulting in the main crises of the storyline.

One such crisis produces the following masterpiece of hurt:

Certainly she had been wrong many times before, and in anger she had often spoken mean and vile words to her husband. But what offended her most bitterly was that Erland would never offer to forget and forgive unless she first humbled herself and asked him meekly to do so. She didn’t think she had let her temper get the better of her very often; couldn’t he see that it was usually when she was tired and worn out with sorrows and anguish, which she had tried to bear alone? That was when she could easily lose mastery over her feelings. (p. 864)

Here is my favorite sentence:

Each time she glanced over at him she would lower her gaze, overwhelmed, when she saw in Erland’s face how young she was. (p. 922)

There’s also a lot of religious stuff.

The pacing undulates, which is perhaps inevitable in such a long book. Engaging episodes punctuate long spells of reflection.

Author: Harry Miller

I have traveled and lived in Taiwan, China, and Japan and am now a professor of Asian history and author of Southern Rain, a novel of seventeenth-century China.

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