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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-04 23:14
Burial Rites
Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

***spoilers ahead****

 

BURIAL RITES is lovely and poignant. The writing is beautiful. Unfortunately, since you know the ending before it happens, it fizzles a bit. Interestingly, I did not feel the same way about Madeline Miller's SONG OF ACHILLES--another novel where the ending is fixed and inevitable. I think this is perhaps because the plot and character changes were somewhat predictable in BURIAL RITES: Agnes is portrayed as a bright, hardworking, unconventionally pretty, sympathetic heroine trapped in her circumstances, and the people who live with her (and care for her) at the end of her life are wary and judgmental but are eventually won over by her relative humanity. These side characters (the farm family at Kornsá, and the assistant reverand), whose points of view are in third-person, are never quite as rich and fleshed-out as Agnes, who speaks in first-person.

 

There are hints at ambiguity that I would have liked to have seen pursued more: Agnes's first-person-internal version of her story is different from what she recounts aloud to Margret. There are hints that she is an unreliable narrator. (Although it's obvious that she also has given up on telling the nuanced truth, which is that she both loved Natan and suffered terrible emotional abuse at his hands.)

 

As I was reading, I even thought there would be an implication of sexual harassment on District Commissioner Blöndal's part--that we'd find that his vindictiveness was based on Agnes rejecting promises of leniency in exchange for sex (and that Siggy had given in, and thus gotten an appeal). None of that came to pass, although it's made clear that being older (in her early 30s) and being intelligent made Agnes seem threatening and evil to the court, where young, pretty, and seemingly simple Siggy was considered more of an innocent victim of her accomplices.

 

Still, this novel is well researched and so evocative of time and place. An accomplished, highly readable debut.

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review 2017-11-08 23:59
Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Wow. What an incredibly haunting and tragic read. It was just so chilling.

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text 2017-11-05 06:11
Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 338 pages.
Burial Rites - Hannah Kent
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review 2017-05-04 11:38
They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and the night. They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves. Where will I be then?
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review 2017-03-01 00:00
Burial Rites
Burial Rites - Hannah Kent Just finished reading Burial Rites for the 3rd time (Book Club Choice) and its still manages to pack a punch third time around. This is one of my 10 ten favourite books as it is just so well written and so atmospheric.

Burial Rites is the extraordinary haunting debut novel by Hannah Kent an Australian Writer. This book is set in Iceland in 1829 and tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir who was found guilty of murdering her employer as he slept. She was condemned to death. She was the last person to be public executed in Iceland and this book is based on true events.


I read an interview with the author and she spent two years researching this story and the back round information to this story benefits greatly from this research as not only do we learn the what happened to Agnes we learn about a place, its peoples the customs and traditions or the time, their religious beliefs and the beautiful and harrowing landscape is described so well that you get a wonderful sense of time and place from Kent's writing. This is something I appreciate in a story as it enhances the book and the reader learns something about a place and time with which they may not be familiar.

Kent's powerful and beautiful prose takes a story that could have been depressing and gives it a wonderful haunting feel to it and reminded me of the feeling I had when I read Wuthering Heights. I loved the tone of the story and as I listened to this as an audio book, the narration was perfect for the story and really made an excellent audio book. I especially enjoyed the pronunciation of surnames of people and places in the story and the explanation that was at the beginning of the book. I am not a big fan of audio books as I much prefer to read a book but the narrator really was excellent. I will probably buy the paperback version someday just to read it again.

I loved how the author gives you the story from different points of view and you find yourself immersed in Agnes telling of her story as imagined by the author. I think I can see how Hannah Kent was so taken with Agnes and the events of 1829.

Burial rites is a thought provoking and deeply moving story and I would highly recommend it but it may not please everybody as it is not an uplifting story and some may find it rather dark.
It made a terrific book club read as plenty to discuss and very thought provoking.

I have also read [b:The Good People|29248613|The Good People|Hannah Kent|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1467899607s/29248613.jpg|49494722] by [a:Hannah Kent|6569504|Hannah Kent|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1470708527p2/6569504.jpg][b:The Good People|29248613|The Good People|Hannah Kent|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1467899607s/29248613.jpg|49494722] and rated it 3 stars.
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