This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Amanda Keats
Agnes Magnúsdóttir is a murderess, accused of murdering her lover. Found guilty, her execution looms. However, before that day arrives, she is to be moved to a farm to live out the rest of her life paying her dues with the family there and making her piece with God. All is not as it seems, though, and Agnes doesn't have long left to tell her story. She can only hope someone will actually want to hear it.
Set in Iceland in 1829, the customs and day-to-day practices of Burial Rites may seem other-worldly to many readers. However, it quickly becomes so easy to connect with Agnes, the family and the priest that it becomes irrelevant. The family are – understandably – horrified at the prospect of having Agnes anywhere near them but cannot argue with the task assigned to them so must get on with as best they can. They are surprised to discover then that the more time Agnes spends at the farm, the more they care about her fate.
Burial Rites is an enthralling novel about a woman who has been rejected by everyone she has ever cared for. Author Hannah Kent somehow manages to find the heart in a story of murder and neglect. The setting is breathtaking and so much care and attention has been paid to the intricate detail of the story that it transports you to that cold, damp setting as soon as you start reading.
There is an urgency to the book, a need to keep reading in order to discover the truth behind Agnes. That said, the story is so beautifully written that you need to savour every word.
When I did make it to the incredible ending of the book I discovered Agnes was in fact a real person, which only heightened the emotional complexity of the story. The murders did happen and Kent did a tremendous amount of research in order to fully understand the context of Agnes's story. I was also shocked to learn that Kent is still in her twenties and this is only her first published novel! There is such an incredible level of maturity to her writing that I had imagined her far older!
Burial Rites really is an astonishing achievement in story-telling. It is fascinating, complex and intoxicating and certainly worthy of all the acclaim it is receiving.
Hannah Kent's Website