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Burial Rites

Shortlisted for the Stella Prize 2014 and Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2014

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson and his family, who are horrified and avoid Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes's spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the summer months fall away to winter, Agnes's story begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about freedom and the ways we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, and asks: how can one woman endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
Booklovers earn $0.95 in rewards when purchasing this title

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Title: Burial Rites
  • Author: Hannah Kent
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN: 9781743516966
  • Length: 2.2 centimetre
  • Width: 13.0 centimetre
  • Format: PaperBack
  • Category: Crime , Historical fiction , General Fiction
  • Publication Date: 01/03/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Height: 19.7 centimetre
  • Weight: 0.284 keg
  • Country of publication: Australia

RATINGS & REVIEW

28/04/2016 2:57:16 PM - Cathy
Good read
The book was a good read. It was interesting and raised some interesting points about the perception of women. Although it was a enjoyable read I likely won't read it again.
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15/04/2015 11:50:53 AM - Krista
Interesting read
I found this an interesting read. I could not put the book down.
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1/10/2015 10:25:55 AM - John
Intensely Moving
“In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.” I found Burial Rites by Adelaide author, Hannah Kent, very difficult to put down. An historic novel, it combines a many-faceted love story with a first rate description of a poor people in a harsh environment, and a compelling argument against capital punishment. Agnes, the principal character, was not necessarily innocent of the murder and arson charges against her but Kent, after detailed research, has been able to provide a not unreasonable alternative scenario to the one put before the court. There are many good reasons civilised countries, by and large, ended the heinous practice of killing criminals, main among them - That by putting someone to death we effectively authorise legalised murder and - The possibility we take the life of someone innocent of the crime. In fact, this was the last case of capital punishment in Denmark (including Iceland, where the story takes place). Agnes, a 33-year old, has been found guilty of murder, along with two others. She is transferred onto a farm owned by Jon Jonsson, District Officer of Vatnsdalur in the north of Iceland, to await her beheading. Her story intertwines with the lives of Jonsson, his wife Margret – suffering, I assume, galloping consumption – and daughters Steina and Lauga. Is Agnes a potential danger to this ordinary, hardworking family (despite the grand title, Jon Jonsson is really no more than a poor but responsible landholder) and will guards be maintained there to ensure their safety? Will Agnes be manacled? Will it be safe to keep her within their home, no more than a damp, draughty turf hovel? Should she be incarcerated in the cow barn? How will her unwanted presence impact the Jonssons’ family life? Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jonsson, ‘Toti’ (and no relation to Jon Jonsson), is chosen by Agnes as her spiritual adviser: Unsure of himself and inexperienced in these matters, why did she select him? What possible good can he be to her when he has doubts about his capacity to deal with her situation? Despite an apparent mismatch, Agnes begins to confide in Toti and eventually establishes a level of dependence on him. The corollary is that he, in turn, begins to find within himself a previously unrealised maturity and an understanding through which he is able to provide counsel. In common with the period, a recurring theme is the attitude to women. As an example, the District Commissioner (part of the court that found Agnes guilty of murder, and sentenced her to death), concerned for her spiritual wellbeing, calls Toti in for a chat. He states, “(Agnes) is a woman loose with her emotions, and looser with her morals… she is practiced in her deception… has manufactured a story… so as to prick your sympathy.” Toti responds that he finds her sincere and the District Commissioner replies, “I can tell you that she is not. You must apply the Lord’s word to her as a whip to a hard-mouthed horse. You will not get anywhere otherwise.” Burial Rites is intensely moving. It tells the tale of a woman condemned to die as a consequence of the way others see her. I have said really little about the actual story because it is too easy to let slip a spoiler. For anyone who appreciates clear direction with crisp prose, this will satisfy.
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