Burial Rites

‘Charged with the brutal murder of two men, Agnes Magnusdottir has been removed to her homeland’s farthest reaches, to an isolated farm in Northern Iceland, to await execution…’

Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, is a semi-fictional retelling of the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, punctuated by excerpts from original letters and documents related to the case. My favourite thing about this book was Kent’s ability to paint the bleak, cold setting of this story so vividly. I could almost feel the chill and smell the pungent odours present in the farmhouse to which Agnes was sent. I could feel her desperation at her present situation and indeed at circumstance that had confronted her throughout her life.

The story is told primarily in the third person, following various character’s point of view, with Agnes herself picking up the narrative in parts. Despite already knowing Agnes’ fate, I still found her story gripping and my interest was also held by the parallel stories of those around her.

I was really thrilled to find a novel by an Australian writer that was ‘un-put-down-able’. Heavy as the subject matter was, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see what Hannah Kent produces in the future.