I previously reviewed the first book of this trilogy by Sigird Undset, here: https://cannonballread.com/2017/01/its-like-game-of-thrones-but-without-all-the-violence-and-scheming-and-a-lot-more-jesus/
If the first book deals with the innocence of childhood giving way to the folly of youth and young love, this book brings home the reality and consequences of choices. We find Kristin married, away from her homeland, and now head of a large estate. She and her husband have moved past what was an interminably long courtship (where whatever kind of honeymoon they were ever going to has transpired and expired) and now they have each other. For good.
Also Kristin has something like 10 babies in this novel. All of them boys. This book more so than the previous title was about more than just Kristin and her close experiences. The first novel did include several short sections that dealt with her father’s perspective. But in this novel, not only do we have her father, we also have her mother, her husband, and her former former (initial betrothed) getting their own sections. The whole of the novel is still in a relatively closely linked third person omniscient narration, but there’s a lot more moving around to the different people associated with Kristin’s life. In a way, the novel is slowly moving beyond the relative myopic experiences of childhood in which one can barely register any presence outside of one’s own needs and world, to the people who have been affected by our various choices. I will be curious to see if this perspective continues to expand in scope throughout the third novel. But in this middle section, Kristin’s life no longer simply includes her, her family, and the boys she’s involved with. This expansion still includes all of the above, but as she grows from young to seasoned motherhood, and as her decisions involve a household, and the responsibilities of an estate, the novel has expanded as well.
The narrative scope grows, but the style itself remains more or less the same. In terms of themes, though, the novel expands upon the idea of the immediate costs your decisions accrue to include the cosmic weight of sin and guilt. Kristin is reckoning throughout much of this novel with the fallout from getting what she wanted when she was so young. And in focusing on this idea, the novel speaks to cruelty society embodies in young people when it allows them to make such grave and impactful decisions so young in life. Kristin is 16 or so when she gets married, but the consequences of that choice are darker and deeper than pretty much any choice I have ever made. This idea plays out in many different ways in the novel, including looking into the consequences attached to legal and economical choices. All of which parallels the struggle between profane and sacred existence.
I found this novel to less fun than the previous novel, but more resonant throughout. I also found myself needing to take a break between this and the final novel in the series.