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Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Paperback

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®

by PowerReviews
Burial Rites
 
4.4

(based on 39 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (17)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (22)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Well written (31)
  • Engaging characters (28)
  • Informative (24)
  • Easy to read (20)
  • Page-turner (19)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift (17)
    • Older readers (16)
    • Travel reading (15)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Everyday reader (19), Bookworm (14), Casual reader (5)

    Reviewed by 39 customers

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    5.0

    Flawless

    By Lauren

    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.

      Comment on this review

       
      4.0

      A gripping story in a fascinating land

      By Jane

      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.

          Comment on this review

           
          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

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