At the risk of becoming a terrible bore and overly repetitious, I have to say again that I am thoroughly enjoying reading Kristin Lavransdatter. Despite its length, it doesn't really feel long when I am reading it! Yesterday I finished the first section of book 2. There is a different tone so far to The Wife. It's far more serious. Whereas in The Wreath Kristin was a young maiden falling in love, in The Wife, she is paying for her indiscretions. She has an overwhelming sense of remorse for her earlier actions. It isn't just what she has done, but how her actions have affected her family. There seems to be a strong sense of the relationship to your kinsman in Medieval times. Not much is done without considering how your actions will affect your kinsmen.
Although Christianity had already been introduced into Norway you can still see that there is still somewhat of a Pagan influence. It was thought that if a pregnant woman looked at a fire her child would be born with a mark. Kristin has this fear for her unborn child, as she had watched her village's church burn down in the first book. Religion seems to be a very important theme in this novel. Kristin now feels she has to make some sort of atonement for what passed before. She makes a pilgrimage to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim (see photo above) where the remains of Saint Olav lie. Although this is absolutely not hard reading, I think there are many details that I am probably glossing past in my eagerness to read the book. I think the section I've just finished actually contains many pivotal conversations that chart Kristin's inner spiritual development. This is definitely a book to reread!
When I had read that the earlier translation was missing portions of the original text, I was not surprised that they were mostly dealing with sex and specifically a young woman's sexuality. That's usually what gets cut, isn't it. But when I read that a conversation Kristin has in the cathedral with Saint Olav was also removed from the translation I was curious why. Apparently there was controversy over the book's portrayal of the Catholic faith in a country that was and is overwhelmingly Protestant. I've probably mentioned that Undset herself was a convert to the Catholic faith. I think this book really reflects the influence of religion/Catholicism on Undset.
There is quite a cast of characters in this book, though I have not found it to be too confusing so far. I did find this family tree that might come in handy later. Here is a breakdown of Norway's Kings.
As an interesting little side note--Brenda, who is reading KL as well, did a little literary research on Norway.
"A main indoor activity in Norway is reading. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Norwegians read more than any other population in the world, spending an average of 500 kroner a year per capita on books."
I thought that was quite impressive!