Longlisted – Baileys Women’s Prize 2014
They said I must die. They said that I stole the breaths from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke.
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district office Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.
Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel 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, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
©2013 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd (P)2013 Hannah Kent
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"Atmospheric and haunting"
Beautifully written book, which transports the reader into Iceland in 1830. The haunting description of the Icelandic lifestyle and the atmospheric writing weaves an intricate net around the reader. The enchanting half-darkness of the long winter fills you with the sense of impending doom and dread of what is to happen. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys beautiful language and a well written book.
"excellent book, strongly recommend it"
A beautifully, well researched, deeply atmospheric story read by a lovely, almost true-to-life voice. The story line is factual albeit fictionalised. It reflects the Icelandic society at the time, its prejudices against women and the power held by class and religion, but above all men.
The main character, which was complex and very human.
no, i am not familiar with her work.
I strongly recommend this very atmospheric book.
This is definitely in my top ten; I couldn't switch it off.
The author has clearly researched Icelandic history very thoroughly although she wears her learning lightly. The result is that the story has the 'tang' of authenticity. The story is based on real events, although there is nothing dry about the way she has treated it.Woven into the facts is a wonderful story of survival in a harsh climate (both physical and cultural) and the development of understanding and forgiveness.The atmosphere is of unrelenting gloom, but it is so beautifully written that it doesn't get tiring. Underneath the darkness is a slow revelation of the human stories behind the bare facts and the gradual dawning of understanding in the minds of the listeners.
There is a heartrending scene in which a mother is forced to abandon her child, written from the child's viewpoint, which is so beautifully described it is like poetry.
I was fascinated by this book, and stayed awake until the early hours so that I could finish it. I rarely do that.
The reader is excellent, and pronounces the Icelandic names with great care. This is a high quality performance.
The author has taken what facts still exist from a haunting story and woven some assumptions around them to make you believe in the characters she creates.
The reader made what could have been difficult Icelandic pronounciation easy to understand. Her characterisation was good, although sometimes it's not easy to tell when Agnes "retreats" into speaking to herself.
Yes, but it's not practical!
I've recommended this book to several friends.
"Soul aching story based on real Icelandic events"
Bought this (and several others) before a trip to Iceland to get flavour of the country.
Carefully paced narrative draws you in and keeps you guessing. Sensitive and believable dialogue.
"Depressingly Interesting.. and very cold"
Tale based on the story of Agnes- the last person to be executed for murder in Iceland. Well researched , well narrated but a sad story in a grim setting. Not sure if the Icelandic tourist Board will love it. The characters are well drawn and I was caught up in the story -definitely worth listening to. Set in the 1800s it echoes with the morals and rules of the time, the grinding poverty and cold was really well described,
"An elegant read"
I have not read Burial Rites, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I have been unwell recently and found concentrating on the written word difficult, but have been able to get a lot from listening to this story; it was wonderful to hear the correct pronunciation of all the unfamiliar Icelandic words.
Burial Rites is elegantly written and a superb debut, and the unusual setting (19th century Iceland) made the book stand out from other books in this genre for me. I look forward to what Hannah Kent writes next.
"A very happy surprise"
It ranks close to the top! Gripping, different, dark - and fantastic
Every bit of Agnes' story is moving. But the whole setting and Kent's ability to describe and convey the setting and the emotions really gripped me.
The narrator does a fantastic job, and is very well suited to the story.
"Be warned, bleak, black and depressing."
Poetically written and hypnotically read but nothing can lift this book from it's relentless misery. The main character is deeply unlikeable and I would have willingly hanged her myself to bring the book to an early conclusion. Morven Christie has a beautiful voice but I think this story was too much for her, her reading became slower and more lifeless as the tale progressed.
"Well written, interesting and unusual"
Pretty unique in my experience.
Ah, perhaps Norse sagas?
Really hate this question (and the next).
The book is a very well constructed novel.
I enjoyed it all.
Actually although the book is very good I did not feel particularly moved by any of it.
Tragic perhaps. To be moved one must have empathy and although the characters were well construced and believable I felt no empathy for any of them.
All a little cold
A bit of a norse saga in itself. The sagas are interesting but lack emotional involvement.
Like them this is a good yarn, well told, but rather detached.
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