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Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Paperback

Published: 1st May 2013
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RRP $32.99
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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®

by PowerReviews
Burial Rites
 
4.4

(based on 37 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (16)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (21)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Well written (29)
  • Engaging characters (26)
  • Informative (22)
  • Easy to read (18)
  • Page-turner (17)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift (16)
    • Older readers (15)
    • Travel reading (15)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Everyday reader (18), Bookworm (13), Casual reader (5)

    Reviewed by 37 customers

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    4.0

    Who knew life was so difficult?

    By Dragonlady

    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.

      Comment on this review

       
      4.0

      An Excellent Read

      By BJ

      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.

          Comment on this review

           
          5.0

          Inspiring Read

          By Awed by Authors

          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.

            Comment on this review

             
            4.0

            Gripping, dark and cold, but with love

            By former English teacher

            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.

                Comment on this review

                 
                4.0

                Excellent

                By Red

                from Geelong, Victoria, Australia

                About Me Bookworm

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

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

                Cons

                  Best Uses

                  • Gift
                  • Older Readers
                  • Reference

                  Comments about Burial Rites:

                  A well written interesting story. Evocative settings. Heartwrenching story, but one I would recommend as it takes the reader to a place not normally travelled. Delivery eexcellent, price great.

                  Comment on this review

                   
                  5.0

                  One of my best 10.

                  By Sis

                  from Newcastle

                  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
                    • Travel Reading

                    Comments about Burial Rites:

                    A brilliant book from a young writer.

                    Comment on this review

                     
                    4.0

                    very interesting

                    By kath

                    from bendigo

                    About Me Casual Reader

                    Verified Buyer

                    Pros

                    • Easy To Read

                    Cons

                      Best Uses

                        Comments about Burial Rites:

                        delivery was extra fast

                        Comment on this review

                         
                        4.0

                        Extraordinary

                        By Baguette

                        from Sydney

                        About Me Everyday Reader

                        Pros

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

                        Cons

                          Best Uses

                          • Gift
                          • Older Readers
                          • Travel Reading

                          Comments about Burial Rites:

                          Hannah Kent should be extremely proud of this offering. It was so easy to imagine the conditions at the time, and the eventual warmth of the characters towards poor Agnes. Difficult to imagine the cruelty of the times, but very well depicted.
                          Thank you Hannah for a very good first book and I look forward to the next.

                          Comment on this review

                           
                          4.0

                          The story left me wanting more

                          By Waiting to be read

                          from Melbourne

                          About Me Casual Reader

                          Verified Buyer

                          Pros

                          • Deserves Multiple Readings
                          • Easy To Read
                          • Well Written

                          Cons

                            Best Uses

                            • Gift
                            • Older Readers
                            • Travel Reading

                            Comments about Burial Rites:

                            Only disappointment was that it wasn't long enough.

                            Comment on this review

                             
                            4.0

                            Dark but interesting

                            By me79

                            from Benalla, Victoria, AU

                            About Me Everyday Reader

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Well Written

                            Cons

                              Best Uses

                              • Older Readers
                              • Travel Reading

                              Comments about Burial Rites:

                              Quite a dark but engaging read. Could really feel for Agnes and her long wait for a fate that shouldn't have been....

                              Comment on this review

                              Displaying reviews 1-10

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                              ISBN: 9781742612829
                              ISBN-10: 1742612822
                              Audience: General
                              Format: Paperback
                              Language: English
                              Number Of Pages: 352
                              Published: 1st May 2013
                              Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.5  x 2.6
                              Weight (kg): 0.45