In this series, I document the pages I read, in 100-page chunks. I highlight parts that stick with me – good or bad – and sometimes throw in a recommendation or two. This is the first post, covering pages 1–100 of this year.
I’m currently reading two books: the first is an old favourite, the second is a new friend. I’ve readGood Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman probably around 20 times – most of those times as an audiobook.
Now, I’m reading it aloud to my wife, a few pages at a time, hoping to have her through them all before the TV series is released. It’s been so long since I read this book on paper that I’m constantly surprised at just how intricate a read it is. The guy who narrates my version of the audiobook, Stephen Briggs, does a marvelous job, and I mimic him whenever I get stuck. As a point of interest: it seems near impossible to get hold of the Stephen Briggs version of the audiobook now. That’s a real shame, as he truly is one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever listened to.
The book however, is great, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
But the new book, which has made the biggest impact on me this first week of 2019, is The Wreath. It’s the first book in the trilogy of Kristin Lavransdatter, written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset. The first book was written in 1920. The edition I’m reading is from the ’70s but has kept the original ’20s spelling. Honestly, it took some time to get into. But the language weaves such a beautiful, intricate, different and interesting tale – I’m now hooked.
In short, the book follows Kristin Lavransdatter from birth and through her youth (She’s roughly 18 now, a third of the way through the book). It takes place in the 1300s, in medieval Norway, mostly in the mountains and valleys. It’s remarkably well researched, and has taught me many things I simply didn’t know about the time or how people lived. I’ve never before really reflected on how interwoven religion and folklore was.
My favourite passage so far came as early as page 16, but I’ve re-read it several times since. Kristin is seven years old, and although she’s grown up in a valley far into the mountains, this is the first time she’s up on the mountains themselves.
“Kristin had thought that if only she could make it over the top of the Heim mountains, then she would stare down into another village like their own, with built farms and cottages, and it stung strangely in her when she saw that there was such distance between those places where people lived.”
She tries to count the houses and buildings she can see, but when she passes three dozen she can no longer keep track of them. “And still the home of men was just as nothing in the vast wasteland.”
“She knew that in the wild forest ruled wolves and bears, and underneath all the stone lived trolls and gnomes and the fey folk, and she was scared, for no one knew the number of them, but there had to be many more of them than of Christian people.”
I don’t know why this passage lingered with me. But there is something about the vastness of Norwegian nature seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old that just feels infinitely familiar to me. Even though it’s describing a time when the vast was much vaster than it is now.
The passage also reminds me of how much I miss these places of nature in between the urban. I miss not being able to look from one village to another, and I miss believing there are places to get lost in nearby.
I’m only about one eighth of the way through the trilogy, but I’d already recommend it to everyone who likes historical fiction and beautifully written passages. The edition I linked to also has very helpful notes in the back, with explanations of words and concepts for those who aren’t native Norwegians… in the 1300s.
What are you reading right now? Anything you’d recommend me for my year of reading? Let me know in the comments.