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"Don't try your hand at any more historical novels. It's not your line. But you might, you know, try something modern. One never can tell!"
    -Peter Nansen, editor at Gyldendal Publishing House, rejecting Sigrid Undset's first novel, published 20 years later as The Master of Hestviken
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1928 was awarded to Sigrid Undset "principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages."
    -Nobel Prize site
Well, that was a whiff for the ages, eh? This shorter entry in Undset's prize-winning oeuvre demonstrates well why we are lucky she did eventually ignore Nansen's advice. Having steeped herself in the form and the content of the Icelandic sagas, she gives us here the epic, but compact, story of a near love gone horribly wrong in eleventh-century Norway. Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is the beautiful daughter of a local chieftain whose manor is visited by Icelandic traders including the brash Ljot Gissursson. Ljot courts a proud but seemingly willing Vigdis but then rapes her in a fit of jealousy. Vigdis discovers she was impregnated in the encounter and after hiding the fact tries to commit infanticide, but the child is rescued without her knowing. Although she is reunited with this son, she stills spends her life plotting vengeance on Ljot. It all leads to a Grand Guignol sort of finale, to mix our cultural references, that could be a literal translation from the vendetta filled sagas.

Gunnar's Daughter is one of the most formidable female characters in all of literature. Ljot proves to have a backstory that makes him, if not forgivable, at least somewhat sympathetic. And their son, Ulvar, finds himself caught between the two. Along with this "family" tragedy, Undset presents a fascinating picture of pagan and still casually savage Scandinavia on the cusp of Christianity. It's a great introduction to her work.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)


Websites:

Sigrid Undset Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Sigrid Undset
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Sigrid Undset (IMDB)
    -OBIT: SIGRID UNDSET DIES; NORWEGIAN AUTHOR; Winner of the 1928 Nobel Prize for 'Kristin Lavransdatter' Trilogy Was Foe of Nazism FLED HOMELAND IN 1940 Wrote and Lectured Here Five Years During War--First Book Published in 1907 (NY Times, June 11, 1949)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset (The Modern Novel)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset Norwegian author (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Undset, Sigrid (1882–1949) (Encyclopedia.com)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset (Holocaust Encyclopedia)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset: Catholic Viking: Compared to some of the big names of Catholic fiction, e.g. Evelyn Waugh or Graham Greene; Sigrid Undset is almost unknown: which is a perplexing state of affairs given that she wrote some of the greatest fiction of the 20th Century. (STEPHEN SPARROW, Catholic Encyclopedia)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Sigrid Undset (eNotes)
    -VIDEO: Sigrid Undset: Her Life & Work | FNLS (Nordic Northwest, 8/20/20)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) (Books and Writers)
    -ENTRY: Sigrid Undset (Nobel Prize)
    -ENTRY: SIGRID UNDSET, 1882 - 1949, Norway (the History of Nordic Women's Literature)
    -EXCERPT: from Catherine of Siena | by Sigrid Undset (Ignatius Insights)
    -AUDIO BOOK: Jenny by Sigrid Undset (Librivox)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Gunnar's Daughter
    -BOOK SITE: Gunnar's Daughter (Penguin Random House)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Gunnar's Daughter (All Readers)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Gunnar's Daughter (Free Book Notes)
    -ETEXT: Introduction to Gunnar's Daughter (Sherrill Harbison)
    -ESSAY: Misdirected Passion: Sigrid Undset's classic novel shows us now what we want to see but what we’ve been neglecting, the consequences of our autonomous ways. (Jessica Hooten Wilson, Law & Liberty)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Kristin Lavransdatter is an amazing novel about how God doesn’t care if we live or die: This Norwegian masterwork is over 1,000 pages long — and it may be the perfect book for the current moment. (Emily VanDerWerff, May 7, 2020, Vox)
    -ESSAY: How Sigrid Undset Brought a Medieval Norwegian Epic to Life: Translator Tiina Nunnally on the Making of Olav Audunssøn (Tiina Nunnally, November 12, 2020, LitHub)
    -THESIS: Morality and Redemption in the Novels of Sigrid Undset (Mariruth L. Renesch)
    -ESSAY: An extraordinary woman: The life of Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset (The Norwegian American, JULY 25, 2017)
    -ESSAY: Reading Sigrid Undset Today (Cynthia Grenier, Catholic Culture)
    -ESSAY: Stages on Her Road: Sigrid Undset's Spiritual Journey (Mitzi M. Brunsdale, Religion & Literature)
    -ESSAY: Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather: A Friendship (Sherrill Harbison, WillaCather.org)
    -ESSAY: IN THE LIGHT OF SUFFERING (Anne Birgitte Rønning, 23. December 2011, History of Nordic Women's Literature)
    -ESSAY: 5 Reasons your daughter should be reading Sigrid Undset (Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 02/25/18, Aleteia)
    -ESSAY: Why This Norwegian Novelist Should Be the Next Elena Ferrante: In praise of Sigrid Undset’s bewitching female-driven trilogy. (RUTH GRAHAM, JAN 11, 2017, Slate)
    -PODCAST: On Desire (and its Absence) in the Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy: From Lit Century: 100 Years, 100 Books, a Podcast Hosted by Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols (Lit Century, December 1, 2020)
    -PODCAST: On Catholicism and Doomscrolling in Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter: This Week from the Lit Century Podcast with Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols (Lit Century, December 8, 2020)
    -ESSAY: ROMANTIC SUBVERSION: THE FORGOTTEN LIFE AND WORK OF NOVELIST SIGRID UNDSET (Lars Walker, 4/14/20, Intercollegiate Review)
    -ESSAY: The Best Book You’ve Never Read The best book you’ve never read may just be ‘Kristin Lavransdatter,’ which won its author Sigrid Undset the Nobel Prize in 1928. (Erin Blakemore May 9, 2016, JSTOR)
    -ESSAY: Kristin Lavransdatter Goes to Purgatory: Sigrid Undset and Dante on Embodied Penance (Anthony Barr, Adorans)
    -VIDEO: The Drama of Grace: Sigrid Undset and the Narrative of Conversion ( Fr. Raymund Snyder, OP, Catholic Information Center)
    -ESSAY: Sigrid Undset's Time Warp (Kathryn Hagen, Catholic Culture)
    -ESSAY: Nobel Women: Sigrid Undset, author of Kristin Lavransdatter and other inferior works (Megan Marsh, London Review Bookshop)
    -ESSAY: A Century of Kristin Lavransdatter: Love in the Time of Piety and Pandemics (Boyd Tonkin, Norwegian Arts)
    -ESSAY: The enchanted novels of Sigrid Undset and Marly Youmans (Wuthering Expectations)
    -ESSAY: CELEBRATING SIGRID UNDSET: NORWEGIAN WRITER (INGEBRETSEN'S NORDIC MARKETPLACE, JUNE 11, 2017)
    -ESSAY: The Saga of Sigrid Undset: A Lifetime of Penance for an Hour of Happiness (MITZI BRUNSDALE, NOVEMBER 1, 1993, Crisis)
    -ESSAY: Reading Sigrid Undset Today (CYNTHIA GRENIER, FEBRUARY 1, 1999, Crisis)
    -ESSAY: Sigrid Undset and an Escape to Reality (Br. Philip Nolan, O.P., September 27, 2018, Dominicana Journal)
    -THESIS: Sigrid Undset's Sacramental Realism: The Body in Kristin Lavransdatter (Annesley Moore-Jumonville, Seattle Pacific University)
    -ESSAY: Understanding Undset (Andrew Cusack)
    -ESSAY: Sigrid Undset on Misunderstanding the Middle Ages (Wine-Dark Sea, April 29, 2018)
    -ESSAY: A Guide for Reading Sigrid Undset (SUSANNAH PEARCE, 11/30/16, Integrated Catholic Life)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Sigrid Undset’s Doomed Flâneuse is a Cautionary Tale: Lauren Elkin on Jenny, a Novel of Rome (Lauren Elkin, October 2, 2019, LitHub)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: “Sigrid Undset: Greatest Catholic Novelist of the Twentieth Century?” (Michael Foley, ND Center for Ethics and Culture)
    -INTERVIEW: Tiina Nunnally & the Long-Awaited Debut of Sigrid Undset (Beatrice)
    -ESSAY: Sexual Violence in Northern Literatures (Articisms, February 24, 2015)
    -ARCHIVES: Sigrid Undset (Lit Hub)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: Sigrid Undset (You Tube)
    -ARCHIVES: Sigrid Undset (Internet Archive)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Louis Kronenberger, July 26, 1936, NY Times)
    -PODCAST REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Fountains of Carrots)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Impressions in Ink)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Siris)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Agora Foundation)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Curious Bag)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Light on Dark Water)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (At a Hen's Place)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Tassled Book Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Jessica Ptomey)
    -REVIEW: of Gunnar's Daughter (Sea Kings and Horse Warriors)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (Brad Leithauser, NY Review of Books)
    -PODCAST: Episode 83: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (HOSTED BY JOHN J. MILLER, May 14, 2019, National Review: Great Books Podcast)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (Journey and Destination)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath (Jim Booth, New Southern Gentleman)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (The Bibliophage)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (Bob Corbett)
    -REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (Feminist Texican Reads)
    -REVIEW: of (Paula Vince, Vince Review)
   
-REVIEW: of Kristin Lavransdatter (She Reads Novels)
    -REVIEW: of The Wife: Vol II of Kristin Lavransdatter (Kasrens Books and Chocolate)
    -REVIEW: of THE MASTER OF HESTVIKEN BY SIGRID UNDSET (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Stages on the Road by Sigrid Undset (Elizabeth Scalia, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of THE UNKNOWN SIGRID UNDSET: JENNY AND OTHER WORKS BY SIGRID UNDSET & EDITED BY TIM PAGE & TRANSLATED BY TIINA NUNNALLY (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Jenny by Sigrid Undset (Mari's Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Jenny (Edith's Miscellany)
    -REVIEW: of Olav Audunssøn: Vows,' by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally (Katherine A. Powers, Star Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Olav Audunssøn (Thornfield Hall)
    -REVIEW: of the Longest Years by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Catherine (History Engineers)
    -REVIEW: of Return to the Future by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Happy Times in Norway by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Happy Times (Stephanie Mann, National Catholic Register)
    -REVIEW: of The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset (Susan Gillmor, Historical Novels)
    -REVIEW: of Christmas and Twelfth Night by Sigrid Undset (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of INSIDE THE GATE: Sigrid Undset’s life at Bjerkebæk Translated by Tiina Nunnally by Nan Bentzen Skille (Sue Prideaux, TLS)
    -REVIEW: Sof igrid Undset: Chronicler of Norway by Mitzi Brunsdale (Jean A. Luscher, MFS Modern Fiction Studies)

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