Burial Rites by Hanna Kent

Summary: 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?

Review: What a lovely book. Reading the description, I'm not really sure why I wanted to read it. It doesn't really sound like my kind of book, but when I thought about what kind of book it would be like, it really did sound like something I'd enjoy.

And I did enjoy it. Despite the problems I had with it, which come to me the more I think about it, now that the book's done. At the time, it was a very enjoyable book to read. It was interesting and riveting, and I'd read more by Hannah Kent.

Although. Although. I don't know. It's a little convenient, isn't it, that the spurned lover of a murdered man has such a convenient story of how little she was involved with the actual murder, don't you think? But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Because she goes on and on in the beginning about how she's gonna protect herself and not open up and tell people the truth about who she is. But it didn't seem to me like it took much effort to get her to change her mind and start spilling her guts. UNTIL I remember one of the first things she says to Reverend Tóti, which is, "I could tell you anything."

Which makes me think, maybe she's not such a reliable narrator after all? And few things intrigue me more than an unreliable narrator.

I do wish there had been more of the main story. The first half of the book is about 70/30, but the second half (basically once she gets to the juicy part of the flashbacks), that ratio is pretty much reversed. I guess because there's only so much interesting stuff that can happen on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, beyond listening to a convicted murderer tell a crazy story about the guy she supposedly murdered.

Overall, I was a big fan. I liked reading about Agnes's gradual acceptance into her temporary home, and I liked getting glimpses into her mind. Despite the grisly subject matter, it was a nice book to read.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking


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