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Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Paperback Published: 1st March 2014
ISBN: 9781743516966
Number Of Pages: 352

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Winner Of The 2014 Indie Awards Debut Fiction Of The Year
Winner Of The Victorian Premier's Literary Award People's Choice Award 2014
Winner Of The Faw Christina Stead Award 2014
Winner Of The Aba Nielson Bookdata Booksellers' Choice Award 2014
Shortlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize


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.

ISBN: 9781743516966
ISBN-10: 1743516967
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 1st March 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.0  x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.27

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Hannah Kent

About the Author


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.

Her second novel, The Good People, is set in pre-famine rural Ireland.

Hannah is also the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings.

Visit Hannah Kent's Booktopia Author Page