“A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?”
– Taken from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17333319-burial-rites)
I first came across this book on Waterstone’s, and I remember that the title and the cover really caught my eye. As I was a student then, living on a tight budget, I wasn’t able to pick it up then. It was only now, nearly six months after I first saw this book, that I was able to read it. (I do have to say that it was a miracle for me to not completely forget about it).
Lately, as far as historical fiction goes, I have been reading a lot of Bernard Cornwell’s works. His books are easy to read and have several lighthearted, if not outright funny, moments or quotes. Not so in this book. This is a dry book, full of drama. And yet, I was completely pulled in by the mystery.
While we are told that Agnes is to be executed as a murderess, we are not told the full story. The details are slowly revealed, and what was a nagging suspicion becomes a horrifying certainty. And yet, we are dragged to the end, disbelieving and hopeful. And the ending simply dashes our hopes. This book leaves behind a heck of a hangover, that’s for sure, with its dark, brooding mood.
On the one hand, it was a really good book to break away from all the YA and NA stuff I have been reading lately. On the other hand, this book makes it hard for serial readers like me to immediately pick up another book. I was left wondering about Agnes’ story and about Agnes herself.
This is a book about Agnes, and Agnes alone. There are other characters, but they lost relevance in light of the fact that Agnes is sentenced to die. Once Agnes is sent to the farm where she is to wait for her execution, the other characters start of orbit around her. All the scenes are somehow linked to Agnes, and all the characters are, one way or another, changed, affected, by her.
To end this review, I will say that this is a perfect book for those dark and cold days of winter. It just wasn’t written to be read on the beach or sunny days. And I will most definitely be watching for Hannah Kent’s next book.
Rating: 5 out of 5