I was first intrigued by the premise of this book when I heard Hannah Kent on Conversations with Richard Fidler a whole year ago. Unfortunately I have only just found time to read Burial Rites and it seems the web is now saturated with so many excellent reviews there is probably little I can add to the discussion!
Iceland 1829: Agnes Magnusdottir is sent to a remote farm to serve the remainder of her prison sentence before her execution. Does being at her lover’s crime scene mean she was guilty of murder?
First Impressions: I loved the variety of different sources that were included to enhance the tone and setting of the story such as historical documents and verses from the Sagas. It was all so well written that I did not find the range of unfamiliar Icelandic names for people and places daunting. Yes, it is similar to Alias Grace as many point out but much more of a page turner.
Highlights: The scene when Agnes first arrives at the farmhouse and takes a bath will stay with me for a long time. I could feel her desperation. The setting is amazing and there is a crisp feel to Kent’s prose as if the setting is permeating the story. The 19th century Icelandic culture of family, rigid social structure and community obligations is ingrained in the prose. Finally, when Agnes is given the opportunity to tell her story it read like one of the Sagas. I would have liked to listen to this on an audio book.
If I was an editor: I would be really annoyed if Burial Rites did not make the shortlist for so many prizes!
Overall: Well deserving of the hype.
Burial Rites: 5 stars