I took my time reading this book, I needed to absorb it. It isn’t the sort of book I normally choose to read, but I was immersed in it totally. When I came to the end it was a bit of a shock to realise that I wouldn’t be in that Icelandic environment again.
The book is well written, with only one or two conversations where I lost track of who was talking and had to re-read the passage.
It is based on a real-life event pieced together from research, set in the 1800’s in Iceland. To me, times seemed grim for the poorer folk back then and I’m sure I would not have even survived. The description of the environment and living conditions made the book come to life.
I may read it again in a year or two, when I’ve forgotten the details a bit.
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes.
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes.
Only Tóti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul.
As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?
Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love.
In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?