Review–Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
Summary: 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?

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Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Burial Rites was an intriguing story. When I first read the synopsis, I was interested in how the story would play out and what types of themes the author would work with to tell her story. Would I sympathize with Agnes? What actually happened? How would it end? I was very excited to finally pick it up and find out if it was as good of a story as I wanted it to be.

Burial Rites was very well written. I liked how parts of the book contained documents and correspondence regarding the murder and what was to be done with Agnes and the other murderers. I liked how the book began with the family that would take Agnes in as they were instructed to by the District Commissioner. I also enjoyed the sections that were told from the point of view of Agnes. The book bounced back and forth between present and past, as the events that led up to the murder were slowly revealed. The future for Agnes was determined. She would die for her crime. The reader knew the what the crime was, but what wasn’t obvious was how it happened and what sort of person Agnes was. The layout of the novel worked very well and it forced to me be curious about Agnes and interested in each detail that was revealed as the story unfolded.

I don’t read historical novels often, but I really enjoyed the setting of Burial Rites. I had absolutely no knowledge of what Iceland was like in 1829, but as the story progressed, I learned so much. I was just as interested in the fate of the family who guarded Agnes as I was in Agnes herself. I was full of curiosity about so many aspects of everyone’s life in the novel.  Finding out what really happened regarding the murders and what role Agnes actually played  was my primary motive for reading. Nothing was obvious or predictable. It was strange because I knew she was guilty of something, but I also couldn’t figure out what she did and why she would have done it. And the way of life in that time period had a lot to do with her reputation, which was even more intriguing. Without knowing how or why, I became interested in the fates of everyone instead of just remaining focused on the whys of the actual murder.

I highly recommend Burial Rites. It was a wonderfully written novel. The story of Agnes will stay with me, I think, long after I’ve finished. It is rumored that it will be a movie and it will be one that I will definitely go see.

Burial Rites spotlight and movie rumors


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