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Sigrid Undset Books In Order

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Publication Order of Kristin Lavransdatter Books

The Bridal Wreath / The Wreath (1920)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Wife (1921)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Cross (1922)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Master of Hestviken Books

Publication Order of Olav Audunssøn Books

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Marta Oulie (1907)Description / Buy at Amazon
Gunnar's Daughter (1909)Description / Buy at Amazon
Jenny (1911)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Wild Orchid (1929)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burning Bush (1930)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ida Elisabeth (1932)Description / Buy at Amazon
Madame Dorthea (1939)Description / Buy at Amazon
Catherine of Siena (1951)Description / Buy at Amazon
Saga of Saints (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Stages on the Road (1934)Description / Buy at Amazon
Men, Women and Places (1939)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Happy Times in Norway (1942)Description / Buy at Amazon
Return to the Future (1942)Description / Buy at Amazon

Sigrid Undset was a historical fiction author from Norway that was best known as the author of the “Kristin Lavransdatter” series of novels. She was born to internationally renowned archeologist Ingvald Undset who specialized in Iron Age Europe and minored in European pre-history and Norse. Given his work, he traveled extensively researching and conducting archeological research across the continent. Sigrid’s mother Charlotte Undset was also involved in her husband’s work as she was well versed in European and Norse culture and could speak fluent French and German. Undset was born in the small town of Kalundborg in 1882 and was the eldest of three siblings. She moved with her family to Norway when she was a two year old as her father could no longer live in Denmark due to illness. She grew up in Oslo the capital and the very early years of her life were influenced by the extensive historical knowledge her father had accumulated and his illness. From very early on, Sigrid learned about Scandinavian folk songs and Norse sagas and most importantly about archeological secrets.

Undset lost her father when she was eleven and together with her siblings they would be brought up by a single mother. The tragedy left a mark on Sigrid’s teenage and childhood years and she had to abandon all hopes of ever going to college. Even though she qualified for university, she enrolled for a secretarial course and began working from an engineering company in Oslo aged 16. She did it to earn money to help her mother and siblings and ended up staying with the company for more than a decade. There were times she hated office work as she felt that she was wasting her youth and time. Nonetheless, the job provided insights into how to make it in the modern industrial enterprise. She learned how to become an expert typist and work systematically. She would later use her organizational talent when she was Society of Norwegian Authors chair and also as a housewife. Moreover, the systematization at work taught her a lot, particularly when she was planning and serializing her novels.

While her job enabled her to provide for her mother and sisters, she was always tormented by office work. Late at night and during the holidays and weekends she started writing her fiction works. She had always loved writing and at sixteen, she had made her first attempt at a Nordic Middle Age novel. Over the years, she had acquired a lot of knowledge on foreign and Nordic literature and thought why not revisit her old manuscript. She also read the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare and was fascinated by the King Arthur legends. She also read Scandinavian writers such as Brandes, Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen. She took the initiative to learn about the craft of writing and as a twenty two year old, she had completed her first manuscript. The historical novel was rejected by several publishing houses but a few years later, she was back with a smaller work that she titled “Fru Marta Aulie.” The novel was initially rejected but a well known author intervened for her and she eventually got the work published. Thus she made her debut as a twenty five year old with a work set in a modern setting that was on the theme of adultery. The novel caused a stir and launched the author into prominence as one of the most promising authors in Scandinavia.

Sigrid Undset’s “The Wreath” is the first of the “Kristin Lavransdatter” series of novel set in fourteenth century Norway. The lead is a girl that spends a lot of time with her father who often travels to Eastern Norway where they have a large estate farm. The daughter-father interactions introduce the reader to the religious beliefs, rural life, social customs, and farming life during this period. Kristin is an innocent and sweet girl that gets engaged to a wealthy man from her town who happens to be several years older than her. She is not for the marriage and to buy time, asks her loving and caring father to let her live at an Oslo convent for a year before the wedding. From her time in Oslo, we learn about fourteenth century convent and city life. But she is not living a cloistered life even if she resides at the convent. She is allowed the freedom to come and go as she leaves for social occasions and to go to the market. On the trips to and from the city, she stumbles into Erlend, a man that will soon become her lover. But she is promised to another man and this complicates things a lot.

“The Wife” by Sigrid Undset opens with Lavransdatter having arrived at Husaby. She is full of remorse for what she had done and is also uncertain about what would happen to her unborn child. The days of throwing caution to the wind in her relationship with Erlend are long gone as she now knows that he is wasteful of his possession and impulsive even though his love for her has never changed. She finally has Nikulaus her firstborn child and contrary to the circumstances of his conception, he turns out a very healthy boy. Her marriage to Erlend starts on a very precarious footing as she reaps the rewards and also pays the price for her decision. She has to accept that her life will consist of taking care of seven children, an irresponsible husband though she does her best to establish her worth as a wife and mother. Nonetheless, there is a lot to admire about her husband as he is a charming man that no one would be surprised that any woman would find him irresistible. Despite his thoughtless and reckless nature, he is brave intelligent and can love earnestly.

Sigrid Undset’s “The Cross” opens to Kristin experiencing the goodbyes, separations and endings of the final years of life. First she loses her younger sister as their husbands quarrel. Her other sister’s husband dies and when she remarries, she moves away to live with her new husband in a far away city. A disagreement with her husband causes a huge row and now they live separately. Soon after, he is killed when he returns home after receiving reports of a scandal. She then loses her sons when one joins a monastery, several get married and the rest move away. In the end, she joins a convent as she feels unwanted at the estate she has called home for decades. The story ends with her showing her strong Christian faith and bravery in the face of a devastating pandemic.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Sigrid Undset

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