“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.”
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 10th September, 2013
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?
Before I start, I wrote this review first here, back in December of 2017 and I did a reread the book earlier in the year. My thoughts have not changed much but my writing and way of expression have, so I decided to repost the review but with some edits.
I have read Burial Rites twice now, first in 2017 and then in 2022, and I love(d) it so much. It was actually one of my favorite books of 2017. The prose is so raw, honest and beautiful. A page turner that I did not want to put it down, both times I read it. Hannah Kent has a way with words that even the most horrific of scenes is put in a gentle manner that is both emotive and evocative.
The descriptions are so vivid, I felt like I was there, in Iceland, myself. Burial Rites has a strong sense of place that makes the reading experience even better.
“A thread, once woven, is fixed in place, the only way to smooth a mistake is to let it all unravel.”
The character development in this book is something worth noting. The level of growth we see in these characters is amazing and I was so happy because, knowing this is based on a true story it brought me some sort of peace that there is some good that came out of the whole deal. Burial Rites has so many teachable moments, some had me pausing a bit just to think more on it. I had trouble focusing with how much emotion it evoked in me, and that made me love it even more.
Burial Rites intrigued me from the beginning until the end. If you are a lover of history or historical fiction is a genre you enjoy, then this one is definitely a book for you.
Have you read Burial Rites? What did you think about it?