Books Magazine

(Relatively) Recently Released Friday: Hannah Kent’s Stunning Debut Burial Rites

By Crossstitchyourheart @TMNienaber

If you couldn’t tell from the title I really enjoyed this novel.  It was the September selection from Book Passages First edition book club which means not only do I have a copy of this fabulous book, it’s signed.  Yes, that’s right.  Signed.  Be jealous.

This book reminds me a lot of The Hangman’s Daughter (I can’t speak for the sequels because, sadly, I haven’t had a chance to read them).  The time period and setting are similar (although not totally) and the main female characters have the same personality.  Although what the Hangman’s Daughter had in suspense, Burial Rites lacks, but makes up for in pure literary magic.

Burial Rites is told from multiple perspectives.  The first is Agnes, the murderess who has been (righty or wrongly) accused of murder with two other people.  She is forced to live out the remainder of her life with a farming family in her home village, but no one knows her side of the story until it’s too late.

Then there is Toti, the parson in training Agnes choosing to help lead her soul back to heaven.  He is kind and open minded, and everything he’s not supposed to be when discussing murder with a murderess.

Then there is the woman of the house where Agnes is staying who hates Agnes for brining a dark cloud over her home and influencing her daughters.  But as winter (in Iceland) starts to rage she begins more and more willing to her Agnes’s story.

And finally there are the court documents and letters to add another layer to an already complex story.

Everything about this book is beautiful.  The scenes, the dynamic characters, the way the stories blend together so that you get a full picture but are never quite sure who you can trust.  The mystery will draw you in and by the end of the book you can’t help but wonder if you’ve chosen the right side and if your narrators could be believed…any of them.

This kind of mystery is more of an acquired taste than your traditional mystery novel and could easily become difficult to slog through if you’re expecting action and clues but not a lot of inner monologues and conversation.  However, once you’re invested in one of the characters you’ll want to know what happens  to Agnes, if for no other reason than you can’t put down writing this fluid mid thought.


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