Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy, comprised of The Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross. As my single volume runs nearly 1200 pages, I thought you might permit me three book reviews. Here is book three; book one was reviewed here and book two here.
In my reviews of the first two books of Kristin Lavransdatter, I went heavy on the spoilers. It felt difficult to discuss the plot, the action, even the development of the characters – let alone my reactions, without taking that route. I’m going to try to keep this one spoiler-free, though, which also keeps it brief.
In this final installment of Kristin’s life, I felt that she changes more than she did in the first two books. Her children grow up; her circumstances change significantly. Her family grows smaller, between the loss of her children (eventually eight) to death, marriage, and travel, and the deaths of many of her loved ones as she ages. Having done battle with Erlend until the very end, she is left with a sense of remorse that she didn’t appreciate him more, that she focused on the faults. As her world narrows, she’s relegated to the place of an old lady whose values (she’s told) are out of touch; she ends up retreating to a smaller world and focuses on her relationship with God. Kristin experiences a few reunions, towards the end, but the mood of the story continues to withdraw, becoming introspective, turning away from the world.
I found the ending a little strange, circling back as it does to Kristin being an object of admiration… but it did accomplish what felt like the right tone. Kristin Lavransdatter is a fascinating, thought-provoking study of one woman’s life in a time (and place) foreign to me, and to today’s readers generally. It was hard to believe, on finishing, that the trilogy spanned well over 1000 pages. It didn’t feel like it went on that long; it was just one lifetime. But it dealt with all the phases, moods, and issues one could hope. And it was a lovely glimpse into medieval Norway that I would not have otherwise encountered.
I agree with Erin that this is a unique and beautiful book. I also agree that the translation was of high quality, and I’m sorry for those (like my father) who tried older versions and were turned off. It’s long, but it’s an easy read. Check it out.