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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
 
4.5

(based on 31 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (14)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (17)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Well written (24)
  • Engaging characters (20)
  • Informative (16)
  • Easy to read (15)
  • Deserves multiple readings (13)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift (13)
    • Older readers (12)
    • Travel reading (12)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Everyday reader (16), Bookworm (9), Casual reader (5)

    Reviewed by 31 customers

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    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

               
              4.0

              Interesting but expected more

              By mum of 4

              from melbourne AU

              About Me Bookworm

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Easy To Read
              • Engaging characters
              • Informative
              • Well Written

              Cons

              • A Bit Slow
              • Disappointing

              Best Uses

              • Travel Reading

              Comments about Burial Rites:

              Expected it to be at the same level as Girl with the Dragon Tatoo or Miss Samelias Feeling for Snow, but it was more of a history narrative and of the Nora Roberts elk. It is an enjoyable read, and reasonably light, and really showed the thinking of the time, and was very engaging, but not a real gripper or page turner. Would receommend it as a read.

              Comment on this review

               
              5.0

              I love this book

              By Smiley Kylie

              from Newcastle

              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 was happy with how quick the book arrived and in excellent condition.

                Comment on this review

                 
                5.0

                A Must Read Book

                By Kaz on Books

                from Sydney NSW

                About Me Everyday Reader

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

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

                Cons

                  Best Uses

                  • Gift
                  • Older Readers

                  Comments about Burial Rites:

                  I felt that I had travelled to Iceland. This is such a compelling story - beautifully written.

                  Comment on this review

                   
                  5.0

                  The book of 2013

                  By Pietro

                  from Sydney AUS

                  About Me Everyday Reader

                  Pros

                  • Deserves Multiple Readings

                  Cons

                    Best Uses

                      Comments about Burial Rites:

                      The history of the writer and her tale to delivery of this extraordinary book are well documented; and the book lives up to all expectations. The characters are brilliantly developed and Agnes's own commentary is so real as to suggest that Hannah was with her as the events unfolded. You get a great sense for how difficult it would have been to live/survive in the conditions as portrayed. The book of 2013....

                      Comment on this review

                       
                      4.0

                      Capitivating historical account

                      By Candy

                      from NSW

                      About Me Casual Reader

                      Verified Buyer

                      Pros

                      • Engaging characters
                      • Informative
                      • Well Written

                      Cons

                      • Not What I Expected

                      Best Uses

                        Comments about Burial Rites:

                        This story is set in early 1800's and loosely based on a true story. The author brings the characters to life with endearing personalities. Life was hard and the food wouldn't be fed to our pets today. However people were content to work hard and look after one another

                        Comment on this review

                         
                        5.0

                        Great Read

                        By Trev.

                        from S/W W.A.

                        About Me Everyday Reader

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

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

                        Cons

                          Best Uses

                          • Gift
                          • Older Readers
                          • Travel Reading

                          Comments about Burial Rites:

                          Good work!

                          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
                          Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 15.5  x 2.6
                          Weight (kg): 0.45