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Publisher's Summary

The Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset, who won of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 ("principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages") is now available unabridged at Audible for the first time!

As a young girl in 14th-century Norway, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, Lavrans, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.

For the first time, all three Kristin Lavransdatter novels, The Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross, are available in an accessible, modern, single-volume performance. Audible recorded the prize-winning translation by Tiina Nunnally, performed by Erin Bennett. Bennett does more than demystify the Norwegian names; more importantly she becomes Kristin's timeless voice, which the listener follows from cradle to grave. Despite - or perhaps because of - the rich detail about medieval Scandinavian morality and customs, there's no piece of Kristin's fictional life in the 14th century - her struggle to be her best self at every age - that doesn't resonate with contemporary women's struggles to "have it all".

If you are a nerdy stickler for historical accuracy, or if you are looking for a totally absorbing performance dominated by a single character's point of view, or if you enjoy the work of empyrean women authors - especially Hilary Mantel, Charlotte Brontë, and Elena Ferrante - here's your next great listen!

©1997, 1999, 2000 Translation and notes copyright Tiina Nunnally. Introduction copyright Brad Leithauser, 2005 (P)2017 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[Sigrid Undset] should be the next Elena Ferrante...whose huge commercial success suggests there is a market for series in translation about fierce, complicated women navigating their culturally conservative European milieu.... If HBO is looking for its next miniseries, it should give Kristin Lavransdatter the proper adaptation it deserves. Rereading the trilogy this fall, I kept thinking of Olive Kitteridge, another powerful novel about a prickly mother turned into a worthy HBO miniseries. This trilogy includes illicit sex, affairs, a church fire, an attempted rape, ocean voyages, rebellious virgins cooped up in a convent, predatory priests, an attempted human sacrifice, floods, fights, murders, violent suicide, a gay king, drunken revelry, the Bubonic Plague, deathbed confessions, and sex that makes its heroine ache 'with astonishment - that this was the iniquity that all the songs were about.' " (Ruth Graham, Slate)
"[My favorite fictional hero or heroine is] probably Sigrid Undset's strong-willed, sensual, self-destructive and ultimately rock-solid Kristin Lavransdatter.... Kristin's eponymous trilogy bears many rereadings. Right away one somehow identifies with this daughter of medieval Norway; soon one compassionates her in her sufferings.... For all her faults [she] inspires love in many around her, including this reader. Her faith and loyalty make her quite beautiful to me. Like Murasaki and Dos Passos, Undset tells the story of a whole life." (William T. Vollman, The New York Times Book Review)
"We consider it the best book our judges have ever selected and it has been better received by our subscribers than any other book." (Book-of-the-Month Club)

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  • 05-26-17

Amazing novel!

Any additional comments?

What an unforgettable novel! It transports the listener to fascinating medieval Norway, but the characters, especially Kristin herself, feel as fresh and vivid as anyone you would meet in your own life. Kristin's long and complex journey of self-discovery moved me in a very personal way - the narration is perfect. Highly recommended!

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

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A formerly famous classic few have heard of

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I work at Audible as an Audible Editor, so, yes! I would recommend this book to many, many Audible listener friends. In all seriousness, I loved this book for years, and recommended it personally many, many times in print before I had a chance to amplify it in audio.

What other book might you compare Kristin Lavransdatter to and why?

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena Ferrante -- serious, award-winning fiction in translation from a major literary talent.WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel -- deep dive into a historical setting in order to illuminate the point of view of a single, incandescent main character. JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte (as read by Thandie Newton) -- a novel (technically a bildungsroman) by a brilliant woman author, about the moral formation of a female character, loved by generations of readers.

What about Erin Bennett’s performance did you like?

Erin Bennett has a straightforward performance style that isn't overly dramatic; hers is a voice I could listen to for 45 hours with great enjoyment. She manages to convey the vicissitudes of Kristin's experience and all of the varied characters subtly but distinctively.. Also, she is spot on with the Norwegian proper names! Erin, if you're reading this: thank you! (I'd love to read your review of the audiobook!)

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, but that's just not the kind of book it is. (It's three novels in one audiobook, after all!) I see this audiobook as a meaty story that will reward listeners' time commitment with a rich experience.

Any additional comments?

Now I really want to go to Lillehammer!

37 of 38 people found this review helpful

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A grand listen

When you listen to this book you understand both why the author received the Nobel Prize in Literature and why people are still reading the book nearly a century later. A wonderful story line with characters that will stay with you. Beautifully performed. Never a dull moment in the 40+ hours of listening.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Amazing details of 14th century Norway

The historical details and customs are amazing. I felt like I was there. The author must have done a lifetime of research to have been able to create this novel. The characters are fully developed and the story is very unusual. I saw the TV series the Vikings and how the people were exposed to the Catholic Church. This story takes place hundreds of years later when the Catholic Church has a stranglehold over people's every action and thought. What an amazing story.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Nordic life down to the last detail

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Teenage pregnancy, waxing and waning passion of married life, faith, hope and love.

What other book might you compare Kristin Lavransdatter to and why?

Juno-a girl just doing the right thing.

Which scene was your favorite?

Simon's stand for his love Kristin...even though she does not belong to him.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Kristin is caring for Simon's son repaying a debt of love.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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TIMELESS and this is NOT a boring word- LISTEN

I tend to buy super long "listens" on Audible as I feel like i'm getting my $$ worth and when I saw this title hyped on Audible's home page and also saw that this book (which is really a trilogy) was a Nobel prize winner, I flew into it without any more forethought. After listening for an hour I went back to look when the book was written-- the 1920's!! How strange! The language, though of course in translation, is entirely accessible. Then I went back again to see when the book took place-- the 1400's!!! But the emotions, the situations were so contemporaneous, how could this be? It's simply this, that the book is timeless. It may have been written almost a hundred years ago about a time hundreds of years ago but the clarity of emotion, the maturing of not just one but several human sensibilities is portrayed flawelessly. This isn't a page-turning, ear-burning read but I know this is a book that will stay with me for far, far longer. Honestly the one word to describe thee book is "timeless" but I'm worried that this particular word sounds hackneyed, boring and dishonest. It is not. Perhaps another way to say it, is that the book redefines what "timeless" in a novel really means. Oh-- and the narration is SUPERB!!!

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful Tale of a Woman's Life

From childhood to old age, you follow Kristin as she makes her way through life. A lovely tale of a girl and God interwoven together. Takes place in Norway in medieval times and the scenery easily puts you there. Move over Game of Thrones...

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A great book

I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to hear about Norwegian customs of the middle ages in the dynamic help people live that time. It also paints a picture of Christendom that we do not know today. One of the best things I liked about the book was how it accurately portrays human weakness between husband and wife Man woman and spiritual life. At times it felt like I was listening to a soap opera, but I guess life is sort of like that. To sum up I would say it is basically a tragedy. Well worth listening to however.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Ever wondered what it takes to be a Saint?

What did you love best about Kristin Lavransdatter?

Being consistently surprised at how every character who initially seemed to be predictable became in the long run a fascinating and sometimes exasperating portrait of temperament and complexity. This is a writer who plays the long game masterfully; her Nobel made total sense to me after finishing. I very much enjoy being surprised as a reader, whether by an unusual interpretation (such as a female Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet Women), unexpectedly touching friendships in the midst of a romp (Gail Carriger's Soulless series), or now this Norwegian "Catholic novel" of the 1920s, which my non-religious self found ultimately quite fascinating.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Do I really need to even wonder about a favorite? No, the book is far too complex for such a simplistic question. There is a wide cast of alternately interesting and maddening characters. No one was either all good or all evil. A reader could find that Kristin herself is either flawed and saintly; or martyr-like in the most annoying way. Above all, the writer sees and loves humanity in all its complexity, and took the time to write about them in such intriguing depth. She probably took years or even decades to do so, with patience and without judging them for their failings (or at least offering other explanations for their failings).

What about Erin Bennett’s performance did you like?

Like the author, Ms. Bennet plays an amazing long game. 48 hours of consistently measured but passionate narration. She never overwhelmed the story, and her voices never made me cringe; on the contary, they often were very appealing. Her voicing of Kristin came the closest to being annoying, but I think that was intentional: the character is so self-consciously pious that Bennet's rendition was spot-on, if sometimes a little off-putting.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

So many. These people are so filled with human failings, and do sometimes outrageous things, and yet they overwhelmingly struggle to find their way back towards a moral center. If that sounds pretentious, it really isn't in the book. They struggle the same way Sherlock Holmes struggles, or Zadie Smith's characters struggle, or even "zany" Christopher Moore's characters try not to go completely off whatever edge they're teetering on.

Any additional comments?

When I recommended this book to my spiritual but 20-something friend, he laughed and said he would never read it, too many negatives: Norwegian, 14th century, Catholic, LONG, etc. I think if he ever gave it a good try (say, 20 hours or so) he might change his mind and find it fascinating. First, as the overwhelming popularity of TV series implies, few of us want to see a good story end. And so much of Kristin Lavransdatter is relevant to 2017 (men responding almost mystically to men who act like "Chieftains", for example); it is a wonderful, patient writer's deep look into a patriarchal Scandinavian world through the eyes of a stubborn woman who never manages to disengage from her bloody, chaotic world, even as she tries to give it up entirely while still living (through a path clearly laid out by one religion's sometimes almost unbelievably harsh guidelines).

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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A great listen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, the narration was great and it was a must listen. I found myself sitting in the driveway in order to keep listening.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful