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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites (edition 2014)

by Hannah Kent (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,3132133,954 (4.01)317
Title:Burial Rites
Authors:Hannah Kent (Author)
Info:Back Bay Books (2014), Edition: 1st, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

  1. 70
    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (Mopsy)
  2. 40
    Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Polished Hoe portrays conditions in 20th-century Jamaica, while Burial Rites focuses on 19th-century Iceland, but these exquisitely detailed literary historical novels explore the lives of unusually intelligent women whose treatment by their masters has resulted in terrible crimes.… (more)
  3. 10
    Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although Slammerkin is more suspenseful and richly detailed than the spare, reflective Burial Rites, both character-driven historical novels draw upon true stories of young women accused of murder. Emphasis on the protagonists' impoverished backgrounds allows for exploration of social issues.… (more)
  4. 00
    The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  5. 00
    The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: 19th Century murderess in a cold, bleak location.
  6. 00
    The Good People by Hannah Kent (Anonymous user)
  7. 00
    Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield (Becchanalia)
  8. 00
    Independent People by Halldor Laxness (GerrysBookshelf)
  9. 00
    The Blue Fox by Sjón (tandah)
  10. 00
    Justice Undone by Thor Vilhjalmsson (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Another novel about murder in 19th-century Iceland that's based on a real case.
  11. 00
    Achtendertig nachten by Janne IJmker (Blogletter)
  12. 00
    The Madness of a Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: Another woman named Agnes, murder and the vulnerabilities created by love.
  13. 01
    The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (KimarieBee)

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» See also 317 mentions

English (210)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (213)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
If you've enjoyed shows like Hinterland, where people survive in a hostile but familiar environment, you'll like this one. Based on the case of a woman, convicted as a murderer, staying in a house (or hovel, as it's described) with a family prior to her execution. Outstanding portrayal of the bleak environment, even without descriptive narrative - it's set in Iceland but I never knew where I was exactly despite the village names. The historical setting (the early 19th century) was determined by the original events, but I got no sense of the period at all. Consistently bleak and depressing throughout, you come to appreciate the little moments of hope and kindness. ( )
  lisahistory | Sep 8, 2018 |
A novel read by a first time writer. This story is based on the true case on the last person beheaded in Iceland. The author has consulted many remaining documents about the murder, trial and execution of Agnes Magnusdottir, one of the accused. Icelanders had a very high literacy rate and believed in regularly documenting not just births and deaths, but also living circumstances and other interesting facts of the lives of the people. Letters were regularly exchanged and kept, giving the writer a fair amount of information upon which to base her novel. Kent chose to take sympathetic view of Agnes, setting her account apart from previous books written about the events.

The story itself is quite fascinating, but what I really enjoyed was the historical minutia; I had never thought about, but enjoyed reading what life was like living in a croft on a farm in the 1820's. Kent does a great job of taking us into the day-to-day lives of people back then, both the servants and the families who essentially live with them. I loved all the little details!

I found the writing itself very poetic and yet rather dry. It didn't really bother me as it seemed to fit the mood, even the weather of the first half of the story. It was only in the second half of the book, when Agnes begins to tell her story that the writing itself becomes more juicy, as does the story. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
This book was a captivating read. It's a story about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland, in 1830, for her part in the deaths of two men. While steeped in the historical record and oral history as well as Icelandic sagas and legends, it's a fictionalised account of Agnes's life—of a poor working woman who never had the chance to try to reach her full potential. I really liked how Margret, initially hostile, over time came to understand her and relate to her. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Jul 29, 2018 |
When you already know how a story ends and yet, you find yourself agonizing over the fate of its protagonists willing for History to change direction, it says a lot about the writer's talent to make you so interested in the novel that you deny reality. This is what happens with Hannah Kent's Burial Rites.

The haunting, almost harrowing, landscape of Iceland becomes a character as significant as Agnes, Tóti, Natan and Margret. Each character springs out of the pages and right into your soul. Agnes' voice is full of dignity and beauty, even when she momentarily gives in to despair. Margret is strength and determination, Tóti is compassion and Natan is love as a destructive force.

Burial Rites is one of the best books in the Gothic Crime fiction genre, a genre that is rejuvenated by authors like Hannah Kent and Cecilia Ekbäck. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Burial Rites is Hannah Kent’s shattering historical novel about the last person executed in Iceland for murder, the sixth day of January 1830. This is a sad and somber tale of Agnes Magnusdottir, a serving girl who is accused of murdering her master, Natan Ketilsson; a woman who has had little love and no breaks in her short lifetime. When the story opens, Agnes has already been tried and found guilty and is awaiting execution. She is transferred to the farm of a minor government official and we come to see her through both her own thoughts and those of the members of the family holding her and the priest sent to reclaim her soul.

Not surprisingly, Iceland in the 1800s was a harsh and cold place to attempt survival in the best of circumstances. For a person of Agnes’ standing, it was both a cruel natural environment and a cruel social one. The justice system is very arbitrary and based as much on superstition and suspicion as evidence. Kent has woven from the scant records available a seemingly realistic and poignant tale of the life and death of its final victim.

The mood Kent weaves around this place and these events is gripping. I could feel the cold, see the stark lifestyle, smell the dampness of the badstofa, with the bodies crammed in the tight space and radiating the heat of passion and the exhaustion and sweat of the days of hard work. I could feel for the intelligent woman who is punished as much for the fact that she is born into the wrong social position as for any other crime she might have committed. The weight of her sorrow and her fear pushed on me throughout the pages right to the bitter end.

Agnes grapples with her coming death and the events that have lead to it and she tries to reconcile the part she played in her own fate and the part that life thrust upon her by accident of her birth. She compares herself at one juncture with a daughter of the house in which she is being held, and what she says made an impression on me that stung:

Has Steina ever had to decide whether to let a farmer up under her skirts and face the wrath of his wife, who will force her to do the shit-work, or to deny him and find herself homeless in the snow and fog with all doors barred against her?

Indeed, what choice is this? To be believed and respected she must deny him, but to deny him is to risk survival itself. And, this applies to almost every choice she makes in life, because she is always at the mercy of whether the people she is subjected to are as decent or less decent than herself.

Her fear as death approaches is palpable. Like all of us, she wants her life, she fears the silence of the tomb, she fears she cannot face the axe that will sever her head from her body and cast her into darkness forever. She fears being forgotten, but then as she says, “I don’t want to be remembered, I want to here!” and that, in truth, is true for all of us. None of us wishes to face our own demise, even though each of us knows that we will.

Finally, Agnes is everyman who faces the idea that the world will continue to turn and they, somehow, will not be there any longer to witness the seasons.
"Now comes the darkening sky and a cold wind that passes right through you, as though you are not there, it passes through you as though it does not care whether you are alive or dead, for you will be gone and the wind will still be there, licking the grass flat upon the ground, not caring whether the soul is at a freeze or thaw, for it will freeze and thaw again, and soon your bones, now hot with blood and thick-juicy with marrow, will be dry and brittle and flake and freeze and thaw with the weight of the dirt upon you, and the last moisture of your body will be drawn up to the surface by the grass, and the wind will come and knock it down and push you back against the rocks, or it will scrape you up under its nails and take you out to sea in a wild screaming of snow."

I could not help thinking of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I found myself hoping that Agnes felt a sweet surprise when she passed beyond this life, that the abyss was not abyss, but a light.

My hat is off to Hannah Kent for the feeling and emotion she packed into this novel without ever once crossing the line into maudlin or saccharin or untenable. This is her first novel, so I am anxious to see what she has done subsequently. I will not hesitate to read her again.

Once more, I owe a debt of gratitude to Lori, who took this journey with me and added so much to my thoughts and understanding of this book. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
Hannah Kent received a seven figure advance comprised of offers from three publishers for Burial Rites as part of a two-book deal. This is her first novel, written towards completing a PhD at Flinders University. She is 28 years old.
One of the best “Scandinavian” crime novels I have read, Burial Rites is the work of an Australian who visited Iceland on a cultural exchange.
The novel isn't seamless—Ms. Kent disrupts its rhythms by awkwardly switching between an omniscient narrator and Agnes's first-person point of view. But it convincingly animates Agnes, who feels "knifed to the hilt with fate," showing her headstrong humanity and heart-wrenching thirst for life. At one point she recalls seeing two icebergs grinding together off the northern shore, the friction from their exposed boulders causing gathered driftwood to go up in flames. At her best, Ms. Kent achieves a similar eerie force in this story of passion in a frozen place.
There are other stylistic problems. Some dialogue that’s meant to seem elevated and of its time simply sounds unidiomatic: “I was worried of as much”; “The only recourse to her absolution would be through prayer.” There’s prefab phrasing — “my heart throbbed,” “she said breathlessly,” “overcome with relief” — and descriptive clichés, including a sky that’s “bright, bright blue, so bright you could weep.”
added by hf22 | editNew York Times, Steven Heighton (Sep 27, 2013)
A remarkable story of the last case of capital punishment recorded in Iceland, Burial Rites is the extraordinary debut novel by Australian author Hannah Kent.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hannah Kentprimary authorall editionscalculated
Christie, MorvenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lubikowski, MartinCartographer.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was worst to the one I loved best.

Laxdæla Saga
For my parents
First words
They said I must die.
His hair is as red as before, as red as the midnight sun. It looks as though his locks have soaked up the light as a skein of wool suffers the dye.
"Do you know the right name for a flock of ravens?"
Tóti shook his head.
"A conspiracy, Reverend. A conspiracy."
A tight fear, like a fishing line, hooked upon something that must, inevitably, be dragged from the depths.
Yes, I am quite alone, and a tremble of exhilaration passes along my skin, like the tremor on the surface of a pot of water about to boil.
At Hvammur, during the trial, they plucked at my words like birds. Dreadful birds, dressing in red with breasts of silver buttons, and cocked heads and sharp mouths, looking for guilt like berries on a bush.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary
Listen to Agnes
Tell her version of events;
But is it the truth?

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316243914, Hardcover)

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?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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. . . . BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place --… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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