Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kristin Lavransdatter 1, The Bridal Wreath

The Bridal Wreath / Sigrid Undset, trans. Charles Archer and J.S. Scott, 283 p.

The first novel in a trilogy by the 1928 winner of the Nobel Prize, in which the life of a medieval Norwegian woman is traced from birth to death.  The Bridal Wreath tells the story of Kristin's childhood to her marriage.  The novel is rich with detail of daily life on a Norwegian farm in the 14th century, and the landscape described is spectacular.  Readers who enjoy medieval historical fiction will almost certainly enjoy this; Undset's knowledge of the period seems so thorough that through descriptions of clothing, food, cooking, social events, and religious ritual, the reader is fully immersed.  But make no mistake: the Bridal Wreath is first and foremost a novel about sex.  Greed, hunger, fear, and faith drive the plots of many novels, but the arc of Kristin's adolescent life is directed by sexual drive, both her own and that of those around her.  The prose style as translated by Archer and Scott was a bit tough going; I'd really like to take a look at the new translation by Tiina Nunnally, translator of Camilla Lackberg, Mari Jungstedt, and other Scandinavian thriller writers.

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