Previous posts on Kristin here and here.
I just finished the last page of the last book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy.
I read the first book in one day, the second over a few weeks and then bogged down in the third. I think the third book was difficult because Kristin was reaping the results of decisions made in her youth. The hot/cold relationship with her husband went mostly cold/cold. Kristin watches as her boys follow in the sins of their father or their mother. She sees herself in her sons and begins to understand what it is her own parents went through.
It didn’t exactly make for jolly fireside reading. However, the insights I knew would be there compelled me to pick it up and finish. Revived, I marveled again at the powerful prose which distilled everyday emotions into their essence.
In her father’s soul there had dwelt somewhat else besides that deep, sweet tenderness. She had learned, with the years, to understand it — her father’s wondrous gentleness came not therefrom that the saw not clear enough the faults and the vileness of mankind, but that he was ever searching his own heart before his God and bruising it with the repentance for his own sins. p.224
I find myself wanting to loan my copies out to this friend and that; and yet, simultaneously, wanting to hold on to the books so these sentences are at my beck and call.
I think of my friend Btolly who loves her cow when I read this:
She went to the byre herself to help in the milking. It was ever pleasant to her, this hour when she sat in the dark close in to the swelling cow-flank, and felt the milk’s sweet breath in her nostrils. p.20
…and my friend Tanabu Girl, who learned Latin with me from Magister Dilectus and now teaches it:
And the year Björgulf and Nikulaus were at Tautra cloister with Sira Eiliv, they had sucked–so said the priest– at the breasts of Lady Knowledge with fiery zeal. The teacher there was an aged monk, who, busy as a bee, had gathered learning his whole life long from all the books he could come by, Latin or Norse. Sira Eiliv was himself a lover so wisdom, but, in the years at Husaby, he had had little chance to follow this bent towards book-lore. For him the fellowship with Lector Aslak was like sæter-pasture to starved cattle. And the two young boys, who, among the monks, clung to their home-priest, followed, open-mouthed, the two men’s learned talk. And brother Aslak and Sira Eiliv found delight in feeding the two young minds with the most delicious honey from the cloister’s bookshelves, whereto brother Aslak himself had added many copies and excerpts from the choicest books. Soon the boys became so skilled that the monk had rarely need to speak to them in the Norse tongue, and, when their parents came to fetch them, they both could answer the priest in Latin, glibly and without many slips. p.138
Oh, if you have a thoughtful reader on your list, especially–but not necessarily–a young woman, these books would be a wonderful gift.
I gave the new translation to my sister Dorothy for her birthday. I’m eager to talk with her about it. I am ready to read the trilogy again in that translation in 2008.
In the top three of the best books I’ve ever read.