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
Based on a true story. Described Iceland countryside. A bleak, sad book but absolutely fascinating.
The main character.
More social history. More plot. Less trite characters.
I had thought the novels depiction of atypical time and place would be interesting; It wasn't.
In fairness, I could only get through half the book. I almost always finish books hoping they'll get better but in this case I made an exception.
"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.
A good story spoilt by the annoying woman who read the book, she kept dropping her voice, could not wait to finish the book for all the wrong reasons. :-( very disappointed.
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.
"Evocative and moving story"
A true story of a murder that happened in the early 19th century woven into a lyrical evocation of the hard life of rural Iceland at that time. It took me a while to get into the book as it is full of unfamiliar names and locations. Also I found the switching back and forth confusing between the events surrounding the murder and those later when Agnes was awaiting her fate. Agnes was one of the three servants accused of murdering their employer. In time the characters did come to life as the sad story of Agnes unfolded.
The details of the crime are gradually revealed: this is not a fast-paced narrative, instead it is a beautifully written book full of the atmosphere of the country and the social attitudes of the time that kept, Agnes, a woman of spirit and talent in servitude. Much research has evidently gone into the book’s creation.
At the end of the recording their is an epilogue in which the author gives details of how she researched the material for the book and some of the background to the story. I would have found this material more useful at the start of the book as it would have helped in the understanding of what followed
The narrator adds to the pleasure with her sensitive rendition of the text.
Incredibly well written, almost gothic in tone. You feel like you're standing in the frigid, rocky winter shores of Iceland by the time you're a few chapters in, and by the end I was desperate for the ending to miraculously change, despite knowing Agnes' fate from the outset.
I bought this book a while ago and gave up on it because it made me feel quite depressed. Anyway, the sun is out, it's summer, so I thought I'd give it another go....
Despite skipping quite a few passages, in an attempt to move things on, I found it an ordeal. Morven Christie is an excellent narrator and I take my hat to her for being so fluent with all those long Icelandic names ...but, Lord it's a dreary tale.
"Wow what a book and based on a true story!!"
I've never read the book but the audio version was excellent.
I think the end. It was so moving and I kept saying to myself please don't behead her let her live----
No but I think this one is so good I would pick a book just to listen to her voice.
I did a lot of crying.
This is a very sad book but so well written it was well worth listening to and I will keep it in my library to listen to again next year.
"Excellent descriptions of time and place "
Descriptions of the hardship and squalor made for uncomfortable reading. The harsh reality of life in Iceland in 1825 was painted vividly by the excellent story telling; thank goodness for forensics of today.
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