Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Review)


‘I understood that these people did not see me. I was two dead men. I was a burning farm. I was a knife. I was blood.’

Agnes Magnúsdóttir and Friðrik Sigurðsson have been convicted of murdering Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson. They have been given the death penalty and were to be executed by beheading. Agnes has been moved to a farm to wait for her execution and an Assistant Reverend Toti, who she asked for, has come to prepare her for death and bring her back to God. Agnes is telling her story.

It is such a shame that only two of my friends have read this because it is a stunning and beautifully written novel about courage, love and death. I bought this when I saw it in Waterstones who were having a buy one get one free sale and I loved the cover and I had heard good things about it so I thought I may as well get it and I am so glad I did. I loved it. I am fussy when it comes to my adult fiction. I either love it or hate it. I don’t seem to have that problem with YA books, because I at least think they are okay. I think the problem is I find a lot of adult books dull and hard to relate to. But this was one of few that I actually really loved. I am trying to read out of my comfort zone and this was a perfect novel to do it with. I am a history buff. I love history, which may have been one of the reasons I loved this so much. I don’t know if it is historically accurate or if it is more fiction, but I am aware that Hannah Kent researched a lot for this. Reading the Author’s Note, Hannah Kent stated many thought Agnes was the leader and dominant one in the crime, but Kent gives another explanation and interpretation of events and I was pleasantly surprised by this thrilling and riveting read. It was a slow paced book, but I think it was needed. Her past was slowly revealed, as was what happened that night. The writing was splendid and it flowed so well. It felt so realistic, like it was actually Agnes saying those things. Wonderfully done.

The characters were great. So complex and they had so much originality to them and each had their own unique voices and personality. I liked the secondary characters very much. Margret, Steina, Jon, Toti and Lauga. I found Blöndal to be infuriating, yet his character was interesting and compelling, despite me disliking him, I found I could appreciate him. There’s not much more I can say about the characters except they all seem to have so much passion, and I really did like how the family all grew fond of Agnes and didn’t see her just as the murderess but as a person, unlike most other people. I really felt for Agnes and what she had been through, it wasn’t her fault but she still paid for it with her life. Anyway, they were fantastically written characters.

I particularly liked Agnes’ narration of the past. I enjoyed reading it and I felt in so much suspense about finding out what actually happened. Agnes was abused and betrayed and hurt and you could see that in her voice and her narration and I think she is a great character.

Burial Rites is a superb debut novel, and I will watch out for Hannah Kent because I am sure whatever else she writes will be just as good and I hope that there will be more from her.

MY RATING: ★★★★★

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