A Tale of Two Books (or, Never Believe the Critics)

So recently I was looking for something to read that I hadn’t devoured already, and I came across the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, a series about a girl growing up in 14th century Norway. I was skeptical at first–I was afraid it would turn out to be some mushy romantic bleckity-bleck fest set against the pageantry and glamor of medieval times (okay, the medieval times weren’t actually all that glamorous, but some writers seem to think so). However, I noticed that many reviews were quite positive, so I thought, “What the hey? It’s set in Norway; it could be fun.” The main review that clinched this decision, though, was one from Commonweal: “Sigrid Undset’s trilogy embodies more of life, seen understanding and seriously…than any novel since Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.”

“Hm,” I thought. “The Brothers Karamazov is supposed to be epically awesome…which reminds me, I’ve been wanting to read The Brothers Karamazov for quite some time; maybe I’ll get that from the library, too.” So I checked out that and The Bridal Wreath, the first book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, and proceeded to find how just how alike they actually are.

Oh, my goodness, they are nothing alike–nothing, you hear? Nothing! I cringed all the way through The Bridal Wreath; its awesome bits were few and far between and overshadowed by the extremely annoying characters. In short, Kristin is the daughter of a well-to-do farmer and is engaged to a young merchant named Simon. Now Simon is an extremely decent and kind man who loves Kristin very much, but Kristin is somewhat less enamored of him. She is fond of him, true, but she doesn’t feel any intense emotion for him. However, she does feel intense emotion for Erlend Nikulasson, a dashing but troubled knight who falls in love with Kristin practically as soon as they meet just as Kristin does with him. Dishonor, deception, and boneheaded stupidity ensue as they try to find a way to be married despite Kristin’s engagement to Simon, and…oh, yes…Erlend was cast out from the Church for awhile for taking another lord’s wife to his manor, and now that her husband is dead, she wants to marry Erlend. Really, everyone was stupid, overly emotional, and annoying in this book. And from what I can tell, the other two books continue the madness. So to summarize, The Bridal Wreath was everything I was afraid it would be.

Fortunately The Brothers Karamazov was everything I had hoped it would be–and more. Oh, gosh, we are dealing with awesomeness on the level of Les Miserables. Granted, it was loooooonnnnngggggggg, but the story is amazing and full of philosophical musings. Oh, and Alexei Karamazov is now on my list of Fictional Characters with Whom I Would Like to Converse.

Just to recap…The Bridal Wreath, bleck; The Brothers Karamazov, awesome, and always take book reviews with a grain of salt.

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Filed under National Blog Post Writing Month November 2012, Reviews

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