The Cross (1922) by Sigrid Undset

The story: Follows Kristin Lavransdatter’s life from the end of The Wife to her entering a convent as a nun.

My thoughts: There is a reason why Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy is a classic, and the main reason Sigrid Undset won a Nobel price in literature. One of the elements I enjoyed so much with the book-series was how normal all the characters were. When reading a story you want a hook which is usually based on some kind of suspense. This could be a teenager finding out that they have magical powers, or a meet-cute between two characters. In Kristin Lavrandatter the suspense comes from the time and place that the book is set, not from anything out of the ordinary happening with the characters. What happens to Kristin is so normal, and the pride she feels and kindness she acts out isn’t anything out of the ordinary for the time (as far as we know).

Kristin isn’t a blank slate character, but I think the way she is such a part of her culture in the good and bad can help modern readers feel a connection and similarity with Kristin. She is just like me, neither the best, not the worst, just me. While most people wouldn’t join a convent today, the way that story plays out isn’t necessarily that out of the ordinary considering the context. She joins the convent after she becomes a widow, and she joins the convent because she wants to help her society and not be a burden to her family. Her motivations throughout the story are grounded and realistic and I think understandable.

“All that had happened and would happen was meant to be. Everything happens as it is meant to be.”

 Have you read Kristin Lavransdatter? What do you think about books that follow the character from birth to death? What does a history that spans a lifetime give to the reader that books that only follow a small part of the characters life? What do we as readers miss out on when it comes to books that span a lifetime? Leave your comments down below.

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