Friday, November 13, 2009

BOOK: The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset

The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset, 272 pages plus notes
Book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter
translated by Charles Archer and JS Scott

Women Unbound Challenge

I do enjoy historical fiction. This was my first venture into 14th century Norway, but I'm not sure I've been avoiding this genre; there isn't a lot that I'm aware of. Luckily this is quality stuff, as Undset won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. I think there are several translations, and it would be interesting to read another version, but I was limited by my library copy.

We first meet Kristin when she is 8 and the apple of her father's eye. She lives a relatively privileged life for Middle Ages. The church has a big influence on the lives. The laws of inheritance rule their lives in a sense, as marriages are made based on how the family estates will prosper. Kristin is promised to a local boy by her father over the poor boy who obviously loves Kristin but deemed not suitable. Kristin is sent to live in a convent in the town for a year before the betrothal.

But it's a good historical fiction, and besides seeing the lives of Norwegian there was a love story. Kristin meets an impetuous young man, Erlend Nikulasson, to whom she was not promised to, and like all head-strong teenagers, falls madly in love with against her parents hopes and wishes. She will need to defy her parents and the rules of the land/church if she wants to be with Erlend.

Lots of great characters - Brother Edvin, Lady Aashild, and her father Lavrans round out the story. This is the first in the trilogy and I am looking forward to the next book to see how Kristin makes out with her decisions.

I decided to read this book after reading about a group read-a-long, hosted by Claire and Richard. There is a round up of other reviews for this first book here at Claire's. I'm not reading the same translation, but I like the way the story was translated in mine, even if it feels a bit clunky at times. It feels more 14th century Norwegian language to me.


  1. I had this out from the library because I really want to read it, but I couldn't handle the edition they had. I will have to buy at some point. Great review!

  2. This looks like a terrific historical novel. I have never read anything about Norway.

  3. kailana - I think there are better translations available. Claire wrote about an edition that won an award for translation.

    stephanie - Norway is not a location I've read much about either. I liked seeing Middle Ages from a different perspective.

  4. You're reading, Kristin?! Yay! I really loved this one. I've read the second one as well, and will be reading the third with the group.

  5. michelle - I remember you really liked this. Once I saw the read along, it was just the incentive I needed. I'll read the 2nd one in the next month or two.


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