TITLE: Burial Rites
AUTHOR: Hannah Kent
GENRE: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
RATING: 4.5/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- Kent's writing was probably my favourite thing about the entire story. The prose in this novel was penned beautifully, and she made great use of visual imagery and metaphors that were not excessive, but still struck home. That coupled with the pacing of the plot itself and the multiple POVs helped to create an interesting and articulate account of a small piece of historic Iceland.
- The world-building was just phenomenal. Kent's isolated, desolate tone was one thing but in terms of the story details, she had it down! Everything from the landscape to the mundane details of day to day Icelandic life during the time period. Icelandic words were well incorporated to give a much better feel for the setting and reading the Author's notes and interview at the end of the book was so interesting! We hear so much about huge, worldwide historic events but sometimes the most interesting tales are the smaller ones that happen in local communities.
- The characters were just as engaging as the plot, world and writing. The story was told from multiple POVs and each voice was distinct, filled with personality and contributed to the plot well. Agnes was obviously the star of the show, and while it was clear that her story would not end happily, I enjoyed slowly learning about her life and the events leading up to her imprisonment and execution. I found the family forced to take her in, and the Assistant Reverend desperate to save her soul equally as intriguing.
What I Disliked:
- This is really just a minor annoyance because it's really to be expected of a book set in both a different culture and time period. There were a lot of characters in this book, some of which had very similar or the same names and coupled with a confusing surname system (that is, in fairness, explained very well at the beginning of the book) meant that I would, every so often, get a little confused as to who was who.
What a gorgeous book! Make no mistake, you won't find a happy ending here and for those that are easily upset this could be a tough read. I myself in the latter portion of the book felt an almost constant anxiety as the plot progressed toward it's inevitable conclusion.But there were so many great things about this book that I really feel that a petty wide range of people would enjoy this story, even if Historical Fiction is not your thing.