Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 16, 2009

A Moment with Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter

In Brad Leithauser’s introduction to Tiina Nunnally’s translation of Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, he begins by saying that this book turned out to be for him a “reading experience like no other.” Carrying the huge book around with him for several months brought about interesting encounters, mostly with elderly women, and it was this personal aspect that made it unique.

I thought of this the other day when I brought a to-go pizza order out of the kitchen at Reel Pizza Cinerama, and handed it over to the fellow who is the handy man for my local library. He’s a tall, stooped, gentle, quiet man, in his mid-50’s, who has the look of someone who says very little, but listens well.

“Who’s reading Kristin Lavransdatter?” he asked, and I realized that I had left the giant, glowingly beautiful book lying on the side counter.
“Oh, I am,” I said casually, (bashfully?).
He nodded. “That’s a good one,” he said, with the exact look – “that special glow that comes at the recollection of a distant but enduring pleasure” – that Brad Leithauser described.

I think that’s pretty neat, and it bodes well for the shared reading experience of this massive book; one that I already am deeply invested in. I finished the first section – The Wreath – a few nights ago, but I’ll wait to post about it until the end of the month, with everyone else participating in the read-along. Suffice it to say, I can already agree with “Jim”, and echo that it’s “a good one”.

I hope everyone else is enjoying it too!


  1. Although I’m not participating in the read-along, I’m really looking forward to reading everyone’s posts on this book. It does indeed sound like a special book!

  2. How interesting your first encounter over the book was! I am not reading the book now but I, too, am looking forward to your posts on the book and will hopefully remember your wise words when I read the book.
    Glad to hear you are already enjoying it.

  3. I haven’t started yet. Will commit the last week of the month for it. But really happy to hear “it’s a good one.” 🙂

  4. Interesting. I asked a friend who is in a Norwegian Book Reading Book Club (in Wisconsin, of course!) if they had done this book, and she had never heard of it!

  5. I agree, Sarah! I’m really enjoying it so far, and looking forward to everyone’s posts at the end of the month. What a cool moment, too!

  6. Sarah, I am…uh…a little on the fence about KL at the moment due to the soap opera-like storyline Undset has been laying on thick, but I still have 100 pages or so to go before the end of part one. Wish me luck ending up liking this as much as you have so far! In more positive KL-related news, I have to tell you that I very much enjoyed being able to read the book in the York Public Library today while my wife was at a crafts fair in Maine–what a beautiful library they have there! I think you live a few hours away from there, but you would definitely feel Maine pride if you ever visited. Cheers!

  7. Richard – Haha, it’s a soap-opera for sure. However I feel like it’s mild in comparison to the Amado book I’m reading, so I breezed through it.

    I’ve never been to the library in York – I’ll have to get my aunt to take me next time I visit her. I wonder if my aunt and your wife were in the same craft fair, actually. Small world! 🙂

  8. I have moments where I can just sink into the story, and moments where I’m so fed up with Kristin I want to scream.

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