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
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.
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.
"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.
"Icelandic historical love story"
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book, finding out about what life was like for farmers in the 1800s. it was very well read although slow it matched the detail of the weather and bleak landscapes well. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the views close to the sea, wonderful detail and very easy to imagine.
"The love of a cold place"
This is quite beautifully written. An insight into the time and the life these people lead. An fair reflection on how events and a persons life may have played out.
It's well read. The slow pace allowing one to take everything and dwell on these peoples equally laborious lives.
"An unexpected pleasure"
They often sit, unattended, upon my virtual audiobookshelves, these spontaneous good-for-me, challenging purchases (by which I mean anything too depressing-sounding, too lacking in thrills and action.) On this occasion I found myself without a whizz-bang read and hence feeding Hannah Kent's Burial Rites into my lug-holes whilst painting a very long fence. I have been ensnared by a well told tale, in compelling prose, through the medium of Morven Christie's voice. I don't want to be any more specific. I don't want give anything away. I want you, too, to enjoy the unfolding of a story set in the land of saga.
Not sure I would but only because of the emotional overload which is still with me six months on.
No, I would have been an emotional wreck.
Its been six months since I listened to it but it still has me in its grip and I sometimes find myself thinking of that last walk. I feel not knowing the story or facts that the author has done a great job at trying to give us the story without bias over the crime but the reality of the consequences. Morven Christie was so spot on with her reading I really couldn't imagine how anyone could do it better - she had me in her grip.
This is a beautiful, atmospheric story. The excellent narration by Morven Christie matches the hauntingly precise prose of Hannah Kent. A well researched fiction of true events penned with astute compassion told through interesting, well rounded characters. Warning - read or listen to this story by a warming fire as the discription of the Icelandic weather is evocative!
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