The basics: Set in Iceland in 1829, Burial Rites, is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman sentenced to die for murder. In this time before prisons, Agnes is sent to live with a family of two daughters on a farm to await her execution.
My thoughts: Burial Rites is based on real people; Agnes Magnusdottir is the last person to be executed in Iceland. I'm a big fan of fiction based on real people and real events, and this story is a fascinating glimpse into another time and place. Kent allows multiple voices to narrate this novel, which adds depth to the characters and events. It's an intentionally complicating look at a deceptively simple story.
There is a mystery at the heart of the narrative, but I'd stop short of calling it a mystery. This novel is, however, filled with intrigue and captivated me from its opening pages. While the question of how and why Natan was murdered (and perhaps by whom) is a compelling one, but it didn't drive the narrative for me. Instead, the characters are the focus here. Much of the action surrounds Agnes, but as fascinated as I was by Agnes, I was even more fascinated by the family forced to take her in.
Kent's writing is atmospheric and fluid. I felt it captured the mood, time and place beautifully, but I never found myself moved by a particular passage. The writing carried the story, but it didn't make me stop and marvel at the language.
The verdict: Burial Rites is an enchanting, atmospheric novel. It transported me to Iceland in the 1800's. It's certainly an accomplished debut novel, particularly for such a young writer (Kent was born in 1985), and I'm eager to follow Kent's career from here.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 353 pages
Publication date: September 10, 2013 (it's in paperback now)
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Burial Rites from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Hannah Kent's website and follow her on Twitter.
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!