Burial Rites

Burial Rites

4.2 37
by Hannah Kent

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A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.Horrified at the prospect of housing

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A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Editorial Reviews

Agnes Magnúsdóttir is no longer, needless to say, a household name. In her own day and country, however, the Icelandic servant sentenced to execution for a double homicide in 1829 was notorious as an accused witch and whore. British writer Hannah Kent made Agnes the subject of this debut novel, but interest in this fiction resides in much more than the story of a condemned woman counting out her last days. In fact, the responses of the farm family and priest around Agnes hold our attention almost equally. Already an award-winning fiction in the UK, Burial Rites deserves wide readings on this side of the Atlantic. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

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Little, Brown and Company
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Burial Rites: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Burial Rites is the first novel by Australian author, Hannah Kent. In 2003, during an exchange year in Iceland, Hannah Kent became interested with events leading up to the last execution to occur in that country. Thus began ten years of research into Agnes Magnusdottir, beheaded by axe in 1829 for her role in the murder of two sleeping men. Eventually Kent produced a novel in which she aimed to show another side to this condemned woman. This novel won the Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award, and deservedly so. Kent takes the many facts she has uncovered in her extensive research and, along with fictional likelihoods,weaves them into a fascinating tale of love, cruelty, passion and betrayal. Kent fills out the real and fictional characters, giving them a depth that cannot be gleaned from recorded data. A great wealth of interesting facts about early 19th century Iceland is incorporated into the story, giving it a wonderful authenticity. With sparkling prose, Kent evokes both the feel of northern Iceland and emotions of her characters. Gems like “I staggered in the light of the world and took deep gulps of fresh sea air. It was late in the day: the wet mouth of the afternoon was full on my face. My soul blossomed in that brief moment….” and “I had no friends. I didn’t understand the landscape. Only the outlying tongues of rock scarred the perfect kiss of sea and sky – there was no one and nothing else. There was nowhere else to go.” abound. Kent’s mentor for this masterpiece was, very appropriately, Geraldine Brooks: this genre is right up her alley. This is a powerful and moving first novel, and readers will eagerly await Hannah Kent’s next work. 
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
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.
lovelybookshelf More than 1 year ago
Burial Rites is based on the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person execution in Iceland. From the very first pages of the book, Agnes never claims innocence or guilt. We can tell there's more to her story, but are left unsure... is she actually guilty? Is she innocent? Maybe it's more complicated than that, somewhere in between. Or is Agnes simply mourning that one decision will forever define her? We just can't tell, and that makes for a gripping read. Much of the narrative is in third person; we are spectators. But Agnes's story is revealed to us through her eyes. Everything Agnes hears, sees, and feels is keenly felt. Hannah Kent's writing is phenomenal in this way. And the last thirteen pages or so were altogether intense, utterly terrifying, sickening, and beautifully handled. My stomach was in knots! And you know, I knew what was going to happen at the end of this book. Yet I turned page after page, feeling like maybe, just maybe, it would end differently. I held on to that irrational sliver of hope all the way to the end. Hannah Kent's powerful novel swept me away had me fully invested in the main character. Incredible read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on a historical incident, this novel is riviting. An unusual setting, filled with facts about the lifestyle of the 1830's in Iceland, and fascinating male and female characters make this story a must real for lovers of great historical fiction or just great stories. Another great historical novel on the Nook is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This novel is also based on a true villian during World War II. Both are excellent. Both deserve A+++++++
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
I was not sure if I would like this book. It sounded a bit depressing, and indeed it was. But it was so well-written, and such an interesting story, that I really liked it. Amazing the stories that history holds. I never heard of this case, nor thought much about Iceland. Now I am inspired to look further into the case and learn more about the country and history. Strongly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author does an excellent job of taking the reader into the period as well as the hearts and minds of the characters. Her ability to portray their emotional development throughout the story progression is especially impressive as she is working from actual events -- but also shows herself an empathetic author. Looking forward to this author's next work. Historical fiction is my favorite genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down, great book for book club discussions.
merobertsonhoon More than 1 year ago
As a mystery writer myself I found Burial Rites to be quite riveting. It certainly had me thinking twice about my impending trip to Iceland next year.
Hubbell More than 1 year ago
Great read. Names get confusing but such a good story. Sad and very interesting. Great insight as to the injustice of long ago times ....... Especially for women. Would be a great movie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took about 10pages for me to get the rythm of Ms Kents style, but once i did i couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading this book give the chills,glue to it can not let go. It's getting by page by page?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CoolLibrarian More than 1 year ago
The more I read the harder it became to put this book down. I was drawn in deeper and deeper, not wanting to reach the inevitable end.  I was hoping , at every turn of the page, the end would be different than my heart  felt.
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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago