The summer that I read ‘Gone with the Wind’, I was 14. I had watched the film many times, but the sheer heft of Margaret Mitchell’s 1048-page book had been too much for me to take on. The year before, though, I had finally gotten up the gumption to read all of the Lord of the Rings series, most of the latter two novels in giant, red leather-bound volume with tiny print that I blame for worsening my eyesight considerably. So, after that massive endeavour, picking up a mere paperback, one-volume, measly little epic about the American Civil War -era south was nothing doing.
I realised last week when I picked up ‘Kristin Lavransdatter’ by Sigrid Undset, that it has been that long – 12 years – since I read a proper epic. I tackled ‘Middlemarch’ about three years ago, which came close, and was well rewarded for my efforts by Eliot’s fantastically observed characters and intricate, delicate and oh-so-human plotlines. But ‘Middlemarch’, though long, isn’t quite an epic in the sense that one’s arms get tired holding the book up. So, to ‘Kristin Lavransdatter’, the summer, and long late hours of daylight to spend dreaming about mediaeval Norway. I will report back when I’ve finished with it and then probably spend the following week recuperating by reading nothing but comic books.