Author: Hannah Kent
Published: September 10, 2013
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 14-24, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
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?
This is my first read for #Diverseathon2021. January was run by Beccie over at Bookies on Facebook and her prompt was books set in Iceland, and I selected Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Honestly, this is one I would most likely have never picked up on my own, but that is what #Diveseathon2021 is all about: Enhancing our reading in 2021!
I am glad I selected Burial Rites as I actually learned a little about Iceland. One thing about Iceland is how a child’s last name is given: The last name is taken from the father’s first name with an affixation of -son or -dottir. Therefore, family members related by blood may all have different last names. Therefore my maiden name would have been Jamesdottir and my sister would have actually had the same last name.
There is also a small section in the beginning of how Icelandic words are pronounced, and in some ways I think this one would have been great to listen to on audiobook as to hear all these words with the correct pronunciation because I know I said these words incorrectly in my head as I was reading!
Burial Rites is the fictional account of a true story. Agnes Magnusdottir was the last person to be executed in Iceland, and it was for a double murder. Agnes was not the only one to be executed for the crime: A man was also executed and another woman also faced the same fate, but her death sentence was overturned. The reader can tell that Kent spent a great deal of time researching this case. A family had to house Agnes in her final days before execution: Can you imagine that!?!?: Housing a convicted murderer who also committed arson during her final days, and you have children in the house…
The book is not action packed, it focuses on the hardships of life in Iceland, and matters of the heart. For me, it did drag some, but knowing this is based on a true story kept me reading. I wanted to see how Kent was going to address the ending that you know from the beginning that was coming; and that ending was handled very well with some real emotion felt from this reader.
Burial Rites is long rumored to become a film starring Jennifer Lawrence, so as I read I pictured her as Agnes. This is long rumored since 2017, so who knows if or when this film may actually see the light of day.
Yes, I enjoyed reading this novel based on a true story and I look forward to what Diverseathon2021 brings me to read next!!