Historical Fiction

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

After I read The Good People, I knew I wanted to find more books by this author and read them. Burial Rites was actually the author’s debut novel, and it is based on a true event. I love a good historical story and I love Kent writes her books so I was eager to jump into her work! Here is my review:

Summary (Goodreads): 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?

Review: This book does not disappoint. It is bleak, it is beautiful, it is everything I hoped for and more.

Be warned, this is not a story for the faint of heart. There is no happiness in this story. There is a lot of heartbreak packed into this book and you need to be prepared for that before reading.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous. I rarely praise writing style because I don’t usually pay attention to it, unless it’s really bad or really good. Here, the writing goes beyond just “really good” – it’s fantastic. The way the reader is able to coax out the emotions through the recounting of events is just phenomenal, and everything that is described can be imagined so vividly by the reader. I loved that the story shifted perspectives because it let us see how everyone was affected by Agnes.

What makes the writing even more sublime is the way the author manages to capture the lifestyle of 19th Iceland. The depictions were so evocative that I felt like I was right there, watching the story unfold with my own eyes.

Even though it is clear from the get-go what Agnes’s fate will be at the end, I was still holding my breath as the novel progressed. As Agnes tells her side of the story, little by little, we as readers become close to her. I hadn’t realized how much Agnes had moved me until I had reached the end and was in tears – and I rarely get teary.

I wish my review could properly reflect my emotions about the book and the absolutely amazing qualities of the story. But I’m not that talented. Suffice to say, this book blew me away and is absolutely worth reading. I’m giving it a full 5 stars!

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