Sometimes you just want to submerge yourself in a story — to stay up too late because the book is just that enveloping, or seriously reconsider breakfast if not eating means covering more pages. Each of these sagas (saga: from Proto-Germanic sago meaning long, heroic narrative) pulls you into their unique world and threatens to never release you.
KIRSTIN LAVRANSDATTER, by Sigrid Unset
Nobel laureate Sigrid Unset unfolds the life of Kristen Lavransdatter in fourteenth-century Norway. Kristin is devoted to her father until she meets a man who draws her away into a new, tempestuous life. We follow Kristin from a young girl to her last days as an old woman. Undset’s description of Norwegian daily life, social conventions, religion and mysticism is just as rich as her portrayal of Kirstin. Go with Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning translation.
A SHORT HISTORY OF WOMEN, by Kate Walbert
Beginning at the deathbed of a 1914 suffragette, this book spans five generations of women up to the early twenty-first century. These 15 wiry stories interconnect through time to explore the complicated world of mothers and daughters. Though politics and men pervade the pages, the book focuses on the more intimate side of feminist struggles. Vivid, witty and original, this strikes at something familiar for anyone who has ever been a daughter or a mother.
GIANT, by Edna Ferber
Edna’s three-generation epic is as large as Texas itself. Pulitzer Prize-winner Ferber writes of cattleman Jordan Benedict, his Virginia-raised wife Leslie, and their progeny, as oil rigs and new money threaten the old Texas way. A favorite line: “She awoke to the most exquisite of morning smells – hot fresh coffee and baking bread.” Ferber’s words float through the air as vibrant and cloying as a hot Dallas afternoon.
LOVE IS A WILD ASSAULT, by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland
Not to go all Texas on you, but this lesser known historical fiction about intrepid Harriet Potter (yes) in the days of Texas’ battle for independence gets under your skin. Harriet escaped the Mexican army, lived near Caddo Indians, survived abandonment in the wilderness, bore eighteen children, and married three times – once to a Statesman linked with a staggering (and true) scandal. The book opens with and elderly Potter recounting her life to her granddaughter, which brings in a lyrical, memorable pathos.
THE RAINBOW, by D. H. Lawrence
The Rainbow chronicles three generations of the Brangwen family in the rural midlands of England. Lawrence gives a sweeping picture of traditional England facing modernization and the impact this shift has on each character. The writer, self-admittedly fascinated with manly power, the bedroom and dirty coal workers, pulls back to portray the beautiful/ ugly/ real/ painful/ intimate/ familiar/ imaginative/ palpable/ way individuals connect.
What’s been your favorite saga to get lost in?
Image via Brittany Hope