Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent

Hope everyone had a great weekend! On Sunday it was 70 degrees and sunny in my part of Wisconsin for the first time since probably September of last year. Everyone was outside with their faces turned up to the sunshine like flowers. So nice, it was a little slice of heaven here on earth!

Today we're going to have a little bit of a shorter review. The book is great, and worthy of a full review, but I feel like it would be easy to give things away. So I'm going to paint in broad strokes and hope that it intrigues!

Does anyone know much about Iceland? I have to confess that all I really know is that it's capital is Reykjavik and that it's really expensive, though apparently still worth a visit.Well in the book I'm talking about today we're not talking modern Iceland, we're talking early 1820s Iceland.

The book's perspective switches between two viewpoints: a narrator voice and main character Agnes. When we meet Agnes she's in rough shape.  She's been convicted of murder and has been kept in brutal captivity awaiting her execution. Instead of being kept in a jail -like setting the whole time she awaits her sentence she is transferred to stay with a family in the far northern part of Iceland. The reason given is that there is a lack of jail-like structures in this sparsely populated part of the world, but you kind of get a feeling that something else might factor in as well.

The family that Agnes is to stay with lives in Korsna. The reason they are chosen is because the father (Jon) is on some type of council and it was decided (without his knowledge or consent) that his family should be the one to keep her. The family is marginally compensated, and that is what makes the difference for them. They have had a couple lean years on the farm and the small compensation might be enough to fend off the hardest of hard times.

The family of 4 (Mom, Dad, two daughters) don't know what to do with Agnes at first. They all live in such close quarters that just chaining her in their small house all day long isn't an option. Mom decides that if she's going to be there she's going to earn her keep and so she puts her to work on the farm. One daughter tries to befriend Agnes, the other one just constantly looks at her with disdain.

Agnes does have an occasional visitor though. Since she is to be executed the state let's her choose a pastor to work with her on the state of her soul before her dying day. She picks a young assistant reverend, Toti. It is to him that Agnes tells the story of her life and the night the murders took place. Eventually the family hears parts of the stories too and everything starts to slowly shift...

I think that it's interesting that so many crimes, no matter the crime or the place or the time have the same few themes: anger, lust, greed, jealousy, Just one or two of these can drive someone to something horrifying and this story is no different! I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The last 10-15 pages and the emotions that they pack is worth the read.

Burial Rites
Also a beautifully simple cover


  1. I keep meaning to read this book, it sounds so interesting and I read that it was based on a real story.

    Rosie x |

    1. It seems like a simple story but then there's all the people are so layered and it's really emotionally gripping!

  2. I have this book and I definitely need to read it, it sounds so compelling! Great review!

    1. It's really good! I saw a review on someone else's blog and that made me want to read it, so the cycle continues! Haha


Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!