Book Review | Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Published by: Little, Brown and Company on September 10th, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: 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?

Review: This took me a few tries of starting it to get into it but oh man was this book good. The narration is what troubled me initially. There is Agnes’ first person perspective and then some secondary characters third person omniscient. Figure out the narration held me back from fully giving this book a 5 star rating. It was written in such a haunting, heart wrenching manner that tells the tale of Agnes Magnusdottir a woman condemned to death for murdering her employer.

What I liked about it:

  • That there was finally a book set in Iceland! (I’m sure there are others and now I got to dig)
  • The last three chapters with Agnes talking to Margret was probably the best writing and part of this novel
  • This is a debut novel? I can’t wait to read what else Kent puts out
  • It’s based on true events and some characters are also true
  • It was written so well that I could actually see the characters, the badstofa, the hills, the valley, the atmosphere etc. it didn’t feel like 1800s Iceland was that far away
  • The amount of research that was involved and how well it was woven in
  • The letters between the commissioners & Reverends and poems at the beginning of each chapter brought a realness to the story
  • I kind of hoped for a different outcome but the ending made sense.

What I didn’t like about it:

  • As stated above not being able to figure out the narration
Note: You’ll need a strong stomach for some of the scenes as they are quite graphic.
I would say this book gave me a book hangover. I couldn’t even think of picking something else up to read after this one. It stays on your mind for days. I definitely recommend!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

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