A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.
Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.
Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
©2013 Hannah Kent (P)2013 Little, Brown and Company
So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?
If you loved Little House in the Big Woods or Girl with the Pearl Earring, stop reading and download right now, because you will loooove this. (I'm not kidding--you can thank me later.)
This is not to diminish the unraveling story or real-life plight of protagonist Agnes Magnusdottir-- --which is fascinating and mysterious on its own- but the details Kent provides about everyday life in early 19th C Iceland are, for history buffs, seriously delicious.
The writing is beautiful and the narration is top-notch--I'm guessing Morven Christie put in a considerable amount of time to get the scenes and pronunciation right, and it definitely shows. She's flawless!
This novel transports you to another time and place, while also connecting you to real events and persons.
What more could you want?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are wonderfully developed and the story is engaging. I've just finished it and my heart feels full.
Can not answer that
Agnes is a individual who had me in gripping sadness. I realize life was much harder with weather and very few of the comforts we have now but the loss of a mother so young and the inability to have little rights of=r say on your future was reportedly heavy.
How could one go on for so may years with little appreciation for one's work and kindness and never feeling safe or secure in knowing you have home and food is thought provoking.
The author gave a balanced review of Agnes's life and left me with many nights thinking of Agnes and her grief. I could not get this character out of my thoughts. How she endured her life sentence and how she offered kindness and life saving tactics while waiting for that last day. There was so much passion in the story as well as care in presenting many actual happenings from here historical investigations.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
I picked up Burial Rites, this first novel by Hannah Kent just yesterday and finished it today. Yes, I thought it was great. It seems that historical fiction is really a favourite genre of mine these days, though I've always liked it, even before I knew it was called that, in the days when a book was a book to me, with no categories to make me wonder what was "right" or "wrong" or "high" or "low" literature. This story takes place in Iceland, and is based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, who was the last person in Iceland proper to receive the death sentence. She was beheaded in 1830 on the charge that she had—together with a conspirator, a young man called Friðrik Sigurðsson (also executed the same day)—murdered two men, Nathan Ketilsson, a farmer and local healer and also Agnes' employer, and Pétur Jónsson. This story begins in the year preceding Agnes' beheading, when she is sent to live in cramped quarters with a family in a small isolated farming community, where she is meant to prepare for her punishment and meet her end with the appropriate attitude of contrition and religious faith. The family are understandably outraged and horrified to be made to take in a convicted murderess, and Agnes, who has spent her life as a maid, is put to work doing the lowliest tasks. Agnes has specially requested that a young assistant priest called Tóti be her spiritual advisor, claiming that they know each other and she believes he is in the best position to help her, though the young priest is not aware of having ever met her and their connexion is only revealed quite late in the story. Tóti quickly comes to realize the best he can do for Agnes is to let her tell her own story, which is how we come to learn about the events which led up to the murder of her former employer and erstwhile lover, an event which was not as clear cut as the authorities made it out to be. It's impossible to read (or in my case, listen) to this story without growing feeling compassion and empathy for Agnes, which is also what happens to the members of the family. Of course, while the main characters and events are based on true circumstances, Hannah Kent had ample room to embroider on what might have been Agnes' inner life and motivations, though she claims to have done this based on a great deal of documentation from eyewitnesses and people who knew the convicted woman. A very promising start for Hannah Kent, and I will be looking forward to what she comes up with next. Of course it's a very touching story, and one which was a very fitting follow-up to Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, which I finished just a few days ago. Interestingly enough, in her acknowledgments, Kent gives special thanks to Brooks for her role as a mentor, something I did not know about till I got to the very end. I just love it when this kind of reading synchronicity happens!
I have to make a special mention of narrator Morven Christie, whom I first discovered with Code Name Verity—another much recommended book—, who read the story with great compassion and feeling, and a real sense of intimacy. She is now among my favourites, and I look forward to her next projects too.
I luxuriated in this darkly poetic novel, loving its historical richness, the beauty of the Icelandic scenery, and the drama of Agnes's story and character. The narration was superb overall with a few overplayed moments. The same is true of the novel's language: always detailed and often surprising, Kent's descriptions occasionally overreached. Still, listening to this was a great experience. I had to pause the novel several times because Agnes's experiences were too intense. I expect that Anges, Nathan, and the reverend will stick with me for a long time.
The writing of "Burial Rites" is exquisite. After long car trips listening to this, I almost couldn't wait to get back in the car to hear more of the story.
Say something about yourself!
It really ranks up there with my top ten for the year so far. I don't give 4 stars very often. It takes a book that I will remember for a long time. I love historical fiction and stories that take place in a location and culture I am not familiar with and this one fit the bill nicely. I almost passed it up just looking at the title and cover. Then I accidentally clicked on it and read the description and I was hooked. The author is incredibly talented. I will definitely be looking for more from this author.
Yes her voice was very pleasing to listen to and the way she spoke the Icelandic names and other terms really helped as I would have said them all wrong had I not heard them pronounced correctly. She also captured the emotions and personality of Agnes that made her feel very real to me.
I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...
Much as Wallander is not advertising for Sweden tourism, this story reminds us how harsh and brutal Iceland was in the 1800's . It's a little confusing without the advance knowledge that Denmark was ruling Iceland then and the overlap of religion and governance... but mostly, it's dark and moody and brutal with a bit of overly formal language (or so it seemed for people living such peasant, in-the-dirt-lives). Yet it felt realistic enough. .I was left doubting her long confession at the same time pitying her potential innocence - which is after all the real force of this story. Having said all that, I'm pretty sure it might not have been as enjoyable in print... Morven Christie's narration really made it come alive.
I love stories set in a cold stormy location and ones that allow me to look at my own reactions to things I have not previously considered. I knew there would be little happiness but the storytelling and the language was a complete treat.
For me it was the fact that the author found and used records that were ambiguous at best and constructed a story that told a different truth than the verdict the courts imposed. Their world was so hard and joyless but I was never depressed by it.
Perfect pitch and pace for this story.
I will happily read anything Hannah Kent writes.
Say something about yourself!
Burial Rites is the fictionalized account of a real woman, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, who on 12 January, 1830, became the last individual to be executed in Iceland. The prisoner and convicted murderess was placed in the home of local official Jón Jónsson while awaiting her fate. The novel follows her days as she works alongside Jónsson and his family and talks with Tóti, the young assistant priest who is charged with returning her to God's grace. Slowly her story emerges to contradict and complicate the tales told about her and her role in the violent murder of her former master.
Hannah Kent's ten years of research produced this Kent "speculative biography," which she describes as her "dark love letter to Iceland." It is nuanced and evocative, claustrophobic and melancholy, and utterly engrossing. Kent draws an intimate portrait of Icelandic culture of the early nineteenth century (including not only the "usual suspects" such as the Sagas and Christianity and the clash between education and superstition, but also well-informed insights on the plight of orphans and paupers and servants, and the power of rumor and speculation in a reputation-based society). The psychological depth and elegant prose of this work are impressive (as is Morven Christie's expert narration). I will be looking for more from Kent.
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