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Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

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Published: 1st May 2013
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In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes' spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes' ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Read Caroline Baum's Review:

This book stinks, in a good way. Of fish and blood and guts and unwashed bodies and earth and death.

In fact, it reeks of those things and more. This austere love letter to Iceland takes a true story of murder as its foundation. Based on records from the trial of the two women and one man convicted of killing and burning two men on a remote farm this is richly and darkly imagined in prose thick with atmospherics.

Kent is a precocious talent who understands how to animate research and transform it into compelling narrative. She shows mature prowess in creating the life of her central character, Agnes, one of the accused, a fierce woman with pale blue eyes who spends the last few weeks of her life re-examining the circumstances that brought her to her fate.

The assistant priest who comes to give her counsel is soon tormented by the spectre of Agnes' execution, as are the family she lives with in her final weeks. A scene in which they all make sausages together, up to their elbows in blood and guts, is particularly visceral and vivid.

This book comes with heavy industry hype, having earned an unusually high advance for a first novel. So many books burdened with extreme expectations fizzle out and are soon forgotten, fated to be embarrassing items on their publisher's balance sheet. I doubt this will happen to Burial Rites, which delivers a chilly story of brutality steeped in authentic detail that fills every sense. After reading it, you'll be extra grateful for that hot bath and nice cup of tea.

About the Author

Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she travelled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel.

BOOKTOPIA INTERVIEW: HANNAH KENT ANSWERS BOOKTOPIA'S TEN TERRIFYING QUESTIONS - CLICK HERE

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

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Burial Rites
 
4.5

(based on 43 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (20)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (23)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Well written (33)
  • Engaging characters (31)
  • Informative (26)
  • Easy to read (23)
  • Page-turner (21)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

  • Gift (19)
  • Older readers (18)
  • Travel reading (16)
  • Younger readers (3)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Everyday reader (21), Bookworm (15), Casual reader (6)

Reviewed by 43 customers

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5.0

A fantastic read

By 

from Rosebud

About Me Bookworm

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Deserves Multiple Readings
  • Easy To Read
  • Engaging characters
  • Informative

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift
    • Older Readers
    • Younger Readers

    Comments about Burial Rites:

    This book really affected me & I just loved it. It presents as depressing subject matter but is actually quite inspiring & deeply moving. No cliches in sight & so well written it is an effortless read.

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    4.0

    Good Read

    By 

    from Sydney, AU

    About Me Everyday Reader

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Deserves Multiple Readings

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Older Readers

      Comments about Burial Rites:

      Loved it;

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      5.0

      Gripping ripping read!

      By 

      from Melbourne AU

      About Me Everyday Reader

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Easy To Read
      • Engaging characters
      • Page-Turner
      • Well Written

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Gift
        • Travel Reading

        Comments about Burial Rites:

        I thought at first this would be hard to read due to use of Icelandic names and places, these sometimes form a stumbling block to smooth reading. But the tale was so gripping, and the build up all the way towards the climax of did she or didn't she, how will this all end was so well orchestrated, I found it hard to put down. It contained a little bit of history and it was great to learn something about another culture. One of the best books I have read this year, huge kudos, read it!

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        5.0

        I love this book so much. One of the best books I've read f

        By 

        from Sydney

        About Me Casual Reader

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Easy To Read
        • Engaging characters
        • Informative
        • Page-Turner
        • Well Written

        Cons

          Best Uses

            Comments about Burial Rites:

            all good

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            5.0

            Flawless

            By 

            from Adelaide, AU

            About Me Bookworm

            Verified Buyer

            Pros

            • Deserves Multiple Readings
            • Easy To Read
            • Engaging characters
            • Informative
            • Page-Turner
            • Well Written

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Gift
              • Older Readers
              • Younger Readers

              Comments about Burial Rites:

              Incredible story and beautifully written. It's a puzzle where you start with the answer and have to unfold the question. It's confronting and draws you in, making you question whose side you are on and whether people are really what they seem.

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              4.0

              A gripping story in a fascinating land

              By 

              from Sydney

              About Me Everyday Reader

              Pros

              • Easy To Read
              • Engaging characters
              • Informative
              • Page-Turner
              • Well Written

              Cons

                Best Uses

                  Comments about Burial Rites:

                  A very well written, well researched, engaging and easy to read tale about a true Icelandic character. Superb imagery takes you to the desolate countryside where the tale takes place.

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                  4.0

                  Who knew life was so difficult?

                  By 

                  from Melbourne

                  About Me Everyday Reader

                  Verified Buyer

                  Pros

                  • Deserves Multiple Readings
                  • Engaging characters
                  • Informative

                  Cons

                    Best Uses

                    • Gift
                    • Travel Reading

                    Comments about Burial Rites:

                    This book embedded an engaging storyline about Agnes' journey into a great historic picture of the harshness of life around her.

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                    4.0

                    An Excellent Read

                    By 

                    from Numurkah

                    About Me Bookworm

                    Verified Buyer

                    Pros

                    • Easy To Read
                    • Engaging characters
                    • Informative
                    • Page-Turner
                    • Well Written

                    Cons

                      Best Uses

                        Comments about Burial Rites:

                        An amazing book. Very descriptive. Even though you know the outcome, you can't wait to turn the next page.

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                        5.0

                        Inspiring Read

                        By 

                        from Gold Coast, Aust

                        About Me Bookworm

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

                        • Easy To Read
                        • Engaging characters
                        • Informative
                        • Page-Turner
                        • Well Written

                        Cons

                          Best Uses

                          • Older Readers
                          • Travel Reading

                          Comments about Burial Rites:

                          So beautifully written, Burial Rites is an inspiring read based on a true story set in the 1850's in Iceland. You ride the wave of emotions of the characters set to the backdrop of the challenging weather of the Icelandic landscape. It makes me want to meet the author to ask how she comes up with such beautiful prose.

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                          4.0

                          Gripping, dark and cold, but with love

                          By 

                          from NSW South Coast

                          About Me Everyday Reader

                          Verified Buyer

                          Pros

                          • Engaging characters
                          • Informative
                          • Page-Turner
                          • Well Written

                          Cons

                            Best Uses

                              Comments about Burial Rites:

                              The atmosphere is superbly recreated, the major characters are just so real you care deeply about them. You want to read on because the plot is gripping and based on fact; but the novel is also very well written with a variety of narrative approaches giving different viewpoints of events and character.

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                              Hannah Kent

                              Hannah Kent is a Melbourne-based writer, born in Adelaide in 1985. Her first novel, Burial Rites, has been translated into over twenty languages and was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and the Guardian First Book Award. It won the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year and the Victorian Premier's People's Choice Award, and has most recently been longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

                              Hannah is also the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings. The Good People will be her second book.

                              Visit Hannah Kent's Booktopia Author Page


                              ISBN: 9781742612829
                              ISBN-10: 1742612822
                              Audience: General
                              Format: Paperback
                              Language: English
                              Number Of Pages: 352
                              Published: 1st May 2013
                              Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
                              Country of Publication: AU
                              Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.5  x 2.6
                              Weight (kg): 0.45
                              Edition Number: 1