In addition to referring back to my previous post on Part I, and inviting comments on those points, I thought it might be helpful to group any thoughts/discussion into four areas.
- The Plot : Anything surprising? Confusing? Interesting?
- The Characters: What do you think of them? I can't nail it down to only the first part of the book, but I find Undset's description of the internal spiritual/emotional life of her characters deep and compelling.
- The Cultural/Historical Setting: So much here. I'm particularly fascinated by the interplay between superstition and Catholicism. Did anyone else notice that after writing these books Sigrid Undset converted to Catholicism? It makes sense; it is hard for me to imagine some of the dialogues that pertain particularly to personal experiences of faith to come from someone who is merely looking "from the outside in" in a historical manner.
- Personal responses to the book: Is this book making you look at life in a different way? Making you appreciate/think about anything differently? Kind of a random response, but I thought I'd note it because it was something I mentioned to Michael-- I may have a slightly romantic notion of what it would be like to live, and in particular, eat, in a traditional society. However, as I read this book I pondered the fact that there is nothing really romantic about eating rancid butter, going without protein for months on end, or having to scrape around forests for bark and moss when the winter months grow long and the supply barrels are low. Just as I have to tip my hat to the goods that modern medicine have brought about, there are genuine goods of health and human flourishing that the ability to ship food over distances and store it for longer periods of time.
This Wikipedia article provides a short summary of each section of the novel; particularly helpful are two charts of characters, one of of the fictional characters and one of the historical characters (kings, etc). As the book goes on and the family relationships become more important in the plot, this is quite helpful, especially when all the names begin to run together!
Unfortunately this is all I'm going to be able to manage for now... I hear Daddy and the boys coming back from a Home Depot run to buy more spackle and painting supplies...and someone is crying... so I'm off! Remember that our next chat on Part II of the book will be June 22.