“Piety and Hunger”: Nice intro essay on “Kristin Lavransdatter”

why not start your journey w/Kristin during Lent?

Undset was an obsessive researcher, and her 14th-century Norway has texture down to the dirt of the smithy floor. She captures annual agricultural rhythms of shortage and plenty, obscure ecclesiastical laws governing punishments for adultery, and the way the men douse themselves in ice water to sober up for church after Christmas festivities. Her descriptions of food, decor, and clothing are precise: the way Kristin strews juniper and flowers on the floor to prepare for guests, and her blue-violet leather shoes “stitched with silver and rose-color stones.”

more–Graham doesn’t mention one of the things that most stood out to me about these books, which is their intimate portrayal of motherhood. In fact I may have read KL in the first place because someone named it as the rare book about a woman for whom marriage and motherhood are the controlling longings of her life. That isn’t a full description of the novels–Graham is right that Kristin’s conflicted, steadily-invading longing for God also shapes her life–but it’s one reason you might love them.


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