The Cross

Having accompanied Jackie on a shopping trip in steady rain all morning, I settled down to completing my reading of “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset. So engrossed in the book, especially the lyrical closing sections, I was not tempted to go out into the sunshine which returned later in the afternoon.

The Cross is the third of the trilogy in Undset’s Nobel prize-winning saga produced by Picador as a single volume.

In this work there is much focus on domestic and farming life, that does also feature in the first two books, in my reviews of which I have spoken of the marvellously poetic prose engaging all senses.

I defy anyone reading this extract not to be transported to the delightful bucolic scene:

“She went to the byre herself to help in the milking. It was ever pleasant to her, this hour when she sat in the dark close in to the swelling cow-flank, and felt the milk’s sweet breath in her nostrils. Swish, swish, came the answer from the inner darkness, where the byre woman and the herd were milking. ‘Twas all so restful, the strong, warm smell in the byre, the sound of a withy-band creaking, of a horn knocking against wood, of a cow moving her feet in the miry earth floor of the stall, or whisking her tail at the flies. — The wagtails that nested here in the summer were gone now—-“

We have more details of customs and law relating to inheritance, to tenancy, to land ownership.

As with all societies there are complex relations between landowners and servants. Although not always followed, tradition has it that each are treated with respect and consideration, often mutually supportive.

Marriages are expected to be lifelong. They are arranged between fathers but only performed with the woman’s consent. A child born out of wedlock is frowned upon and denied inheritance. As we see, women are often in love with another man whose child they bear. Provided they are married before the birth the issue is acceptable. Unrequited or forbidden love lasting a lifetime is the lot of some of the protagonists.

Details of the pains of childbirth are well described, and we are shown the stresses and strains of parenting over time.

Even after prolonged estrangement kindred are expected to support each other in times of need. As we see inter-familial and nuclear family relationships ebb and flow as the years go by. Undset depicts loyalty, betrayal, and the difference between forgiving and forgetting transgressions.

Politics, international relations, including intrigue and warfare, feature strongly in this book.

Death and dying, both sudden and lingering, with the grieving consequences are sensitively covered.

The author’s deep, insightful, knowledge of human nature informs her complex study of relationships.

The closing sections mentioned in my opening paragraph, including remembrances of a life with its pleasures, regrets, and the people of importance, are written sensitively and with no apparent haste to finish.

Readers who have accompanied me on my delightful progress through this work, will know that each of the three books has been reviewed individually. Next, I will combine them in an overall assessment of “Kristin Lavransdatter”.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s classic cottage pie with firm broccoli and cauliflower, crunchy carrots, tender green beans, and meaty gravy.


  1. Happy you got settled in your book Derrick… and lucky to have the sun peek out this afternoon… We have had downpours all day.. But its said to be better tomorrow…
    Have an enjoyable weekend both of you xx <3

  2. Undset’s writing is beautifully descriptive, transporting the reader into the scene. Thank you for sharing her work with readers, Derrick.

  3. Thank you for the scene and description. It’s good to be transported to a scene like this and safely return to my own living room.

  4. That scene is so descriptive and quite beautiful! šŸ™‚ Such a great writer as Sigrid Undset does help us escape, “get lost”, travel the world through the eras/times, ignite our senses and emotions, and so much more!
    I always enjoy your book reviews and shares, Derrcik!
    (((HUGS))) ā¤ļøā¤ļø
    PS…How are Flo, Dillon, and Ellie doing?

    1. Thank you very much, Carolyn. They are settling in fine – and have better weather than we do. XX

  5. There was once a time where I could spend a whole day engrossed in a book, alas no more. I admire your ability to read for hours on end. Today, I either fall asleep or I am distracted.

  6. Derrick, this sounds a truly wonderful trilogy. I look forward to your final review and also to reading it myself before too long.

  7. Thank you for eloquently written and description, Derrick. It’s a lovely feeling to get engrossed in a book, especially if it’s a rainy day.

  8. Thank you for this post. I am truly enlightened by the language and the beauty of the emotions that you have described in the paragraph.

Leave a Reply