Last night I stayed up late to finish Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. The story follows Kristin from birth to death in 14th century Norway and it's actually three books: The Crown, The Wife, and The Cross. This book was recommended to me about six years ago by a teacher at a Catholic high school in Chicago. I checked out a copy of The Crown from the library and I found it very hard to read. A few months ago I thought I'd give it another shot and that's when I discovered a brand new translation by Tina Nullally. The original English translation, for some completely bizarre reason, added thees and thous which are not in the original Norwegian and then cut out scenes making the book very choppy and hard to read. The new translation is true to Undset's writing and is beautiful.
I'm amazed I never heard of Undset, especially since I was originally a Literature major. Kristin Lavransdatter is the best book I have ever read! It's also the most Catholic book I've ever read. Being the mom of a toddler, it took me a couple of months to read it since it's nearly 1000 pages. My reading time is when I lay down in bed at night and most nights I read about half a page and pass out! It's one of those books that you want to get to the end to find out the whole story, but you don't want it to end since it's so good. I think it's the kind of book that I will need to read every few years because each read will reveal something different.
Since the book is about Kristin's whole life, I'm not giving anything away by telling you the end is about her death. Kristin is a complex, human person - just like everyone else on this planet - and she is hardly perfect. She is headstrong and makes very poor choices that haunt her and as she ages she comes to a deeper understanding of how her sins have impacted those around her. Kristin is not some perfectly crafted "character", she's perfectly, imperfect and that is what I love about her. As I read the last pages last night I was weeping and finally had to get out of bed so I wouldn't wake up my husband! Even with all of her imperfections, Kristin finally sees how the perfect love of God had surrounded her all her days and in her last breaths she is embraced by Love.