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Friday, August 18, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent- Feature and Review


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?




Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is a 2013 Little, Brown and Company publication.

This story is mind-boggling and perhaps a little overwhelming at times.

As the blurb states, this story is inspired by true events that took place in Iceland in 1829-30.

Agnes, is convicted of murdering two people, one of whom was her lover, then sentenced to be executed by beheading.

She is sent to live out the remainder of her days on an isolated farm with a family forced to take her in because of a lack of prisons, and who are mortified, and even terrified, of having her under their roof.

Also, in tow is a young priest, Toti, who Agnes chose, specifically, to be her spiritual guide as she faces her imminent death.

This book came to my attention recently, and although I knew it would end badly, the book has achieved so many accolades, I decided to give it a try anyway.

I’m so glad I did. The author did an incredible job of fictionalizing Agnes’ story, capturing the bleak and barren Icelandic terrain and atmosphere, while aptly describing the stark living conditions, and superstitions of the day.

I thought I had emotionally prepared myself for what was to come, but I wasn’t expecting such an amazing story, which humanizes Agnes, and allows the full story to emerge, while Agnes works on the farm and eventually carves a niche for herself with the family who so reluctantly took her in.

Toti is also a terrific character, so open minded with Agnes, who listened to her with a sympathetic ear, not all together convinced of her guilt.

In the end, despite the lack of reprieve for Agnes, she’s able to hold her head up, to feel supported, comforted, and is at least spiritually exonerated by her priest and by others who surrounded her in those final harrowing days.

So, all my emotional preparedness was for naught. I ended up swallowing a huge lump in my throat, and felt nearly gutted by the time I turned the final page.

This book is obviously well researched and is exceptionally well written. Although the story is very sad, and the atmosphere is often heavy and depressing, the ending is still touching and uplifting in its way. Although, I do enjoy historical fiction, this is not the type of book I typically chose, but I am glad I stumbled across it and gave it a chance.

This is a riveting novel historical fiction fans will not want to miss.





Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she travelled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir.

Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award.

Burial Rites is her first novel.

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