Shortlisted for the 2014 Indie Awards
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 months leading up 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 avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed her spiritual guardian, will listen to Agnes’s side of the story. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force everyone to work side by side, the family’s attitude to Agnes starts to change - until one winter night, she begins her whispered confession to them, and they realise that all is not as they had assumed.
Based on a true story, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving book about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival.
©2013 Hannah Kent (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Here is an original new voice, with a deep and lovely grasp of language and story. Hannah Kent's first novel, Burial Rites, is an accomplished gem, its prose as crisp and sparkling as its northern setting." (Geraldine Brooks)
The book has virtually "teleported" me to the 19th century Iceland. It provides a snapshot of social structures and life in the harsh environment of this land.
The mystery of Agnes, her inner beauty, the need to belong, her integrity and strength of character create a glow that warms you from within long after the book is finished.
The story unravels slowly, and when it ends you feel somehow disappointed...
Let it sink in. It makes me glad and appreciative of the times I was born in!
The narrator Morven Christie is the best I have experienced in audiobooks. Her timing, pace, perception of mood are immaculate. Her pronunciation is so precise it actually enhances the experience of listening immensely
This debut book is a winner!
Burial Rites is one of the best books I have come across. Brought an unusual story to light in a most powerful way.
Hannah Kent has a very descriptive style which brought the environment: physical and emptional; to life.
I really enjoyed the audio presentation of the book.
I would recommend this to anyone.
This book has it all, an excellent story, a compelling narrator and an unfolding story.
The story and the narrator made every facet of the day to day life and the country side seem utterly alive.
Don't let the rather grim storyline put you off, it is an excellent listen.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
Hannah Kent has a very bright future if this introduction is anything to be guided by. So, it is all the more remakable that she begins with such a dark subject. Add to this her youth (28 at present) and one can only wonder how she found the insight into the death throes of her protaginist, Agnes. Perhaps it is her age itself, close as it is to the unfortunate Agnes that loaned her the foresight.
In fact there are many principals in this debut novel; Agnes, the Jonsson family that are forced to harbour her, the assistant reverend Toti that is called to be her confessor, Natan (one of the two victims murdered and for which Agnes and two others are condemned) and the hot headed Frederick, a co-accussed. Also, the unforgiving Icelandic winter is a living character. It suprises me that each of these are developed in a pleasingly short space, with a careful use of language that wastes no words.
It is hard to say I liked the subject matter, but I can easily say I appreciate the skill with which this novel was written. It is a 3.5 star story, really, but again halves are not an option. I balanced this out with the overall 4 given the excellent reading by Morven Christie.
Of course, Ms Kent is a local of Adelaide, from which I hail, and this might have unconsciously effected by judgment, but I think not. I can objectively say this book is not for you if you are looking for a fun read or a ripping adventure. Similarly, it has a feel of "The Piano" (the Jane Campion movie), so if you "enjoyed" that, you will possibly like this title. This quality is enhanced by the performance of Christie. Her characterisation of Agnes is wonderful.
In years to come, you who read this might be pleased to say you read it, and read it before Kent is a well known name. I trust there is more to come.
I saw Hannah Kent interviewed on Australian TV where she talked about her experiences in researching this story.
I was fascinated from the start and the book did not disappoint. I work in a book shop and recommend this book to anyone who will listen to me. It is so engrossing you are inside the characters as they speak. You can almost smell the living conditions, and feel her heartache.
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