Customer Reviews for

Burial Rites

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

The year is 1828 and Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others,

The year is 1828 and Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others, has been condemned to die by beheading for the murders of two men. But the government has spent too much money on the axe to be used for the beheadings, and they can't afford the upkeep of the prisoners unt...
The year is 1828 and Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others, has been condemned to die by beheading for the murders of two men. But the government has spent too much money on the axe to be used for the beheadings, and they can't afford the upkeep of the prisoners until their execution. So Agnes is sent from the prison to the home of Jon Jonsson of Kornsa, the District Officer of Vatnsdalur, and his wife Margret. They are ordered, as part of his duty as District Officer, to take charge of Agnes until the date of her execution. The family is not happy about these orders, but feel they have no choice but to perform their duty.

This novel is a fictional story based on actual events. As the author explains in her Author's Notes: "Agnes Magnusdottir was the last person to be executed in Iceland, convicted for her role in the murders of Natan Ketilsson and Petur Jonsson on the night between the 13th and 14th of March 1828, at Illugastadir, on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, North Iceland." Many of the events int he book are drawn from local history and lore.

Little by little, the life of Agnes is laid bare to the reader, and as heartbreaking as it is, you realize that it is nothing uncommon. This is the life of orphans and paupers.

However this novel is uncommon. It's a modest story, slowly pulling you in, absorbing you bit by bit. It is heart-wrenching at moments, and you yearn for Agnes to find some relief from her fear, and to find love and affection.

Agnes is returned to Kornsa, where she had a family for awhile in her childhood, and gains a family again before her death. She was fostered as a young girl by Inga and Bjorn until Inga died.

Agnes requests as her spiritual attendant Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jonsson, otherwise known as Toti. He is unclear why Agnes has requested him, and is uncomfortable with the assignment. He is still in training, and nervous about attending to a murderess. But he, like the Kornsa family, performs his duty as ordered.

Toti and Agnes form a bond as he permits her to pour out her soul and rehash her past.

One of my few complaints is that I would have liked to have seen more development in the relationships between Agnes and the family members. I would have liked to have felt warmth between them growing, and her opening up to them. Her relationship with them remained rather stilted.


My final word: This was one of those gentle reads, at times so entrancing it is almost hypnotic, like being rocked to sleep. Affective and sensitive, it moved me and it is beautifully lyrical. I would consider this novel to be rare and extraordinary, and it will carry you along to the bitter end, if you allow it, with tears streaming down your face as you take those final steps. But you aren't alone. Agnes is with you.

posted by nfmgirl on September 17, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Not worth time

This book was agonizing to read or try to read. I forced myself to read it because it was assigned for book club but I couldn't make it half way through it.

posted by 9869110 on February 21, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Reading this book give the chills,glue to it can not let go. It'

    Reading this book give the chills,glue to it can not let go. It's getting by page by page?

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    A really well-written, engrossing novel. 'Burial Rites' is a th

    A really well-written, engrossing novel.

    'Burial Rites' is a thrilling read, and Kent's writing brings Iceland to life. The writing is sparse, much like the land and people it depicts, and completely immerses the reader in the landscape and plot. This heartbreaking story is one of 2013's best novels ... and reads likone written by an author much more along in years than Kent actually is. She writes with confidence, care and reverence for her characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 2, 2014

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    Posted May 4, 2014

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    Posted July 18, 2014

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    Posted October 29, 2013

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    Posted September 13, 2013

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    Posted December 13, 2013

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