Hannah Kent's novel Burial Rites
is as dark and cunning as the recurrent ravens in her exceptional debut. Based on real events, the novel recounts the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, an Icelandic workmaid charged with murder in 1828.
Born in Adelaide, Australia, in 1985, the author was a teenager when she traveled to Iceland and first heard Agnes's story. Kent's fictional interpretation is informed by years of research, including interviews with Icelanders, ministerial records, parish archives, censuses, local histories and publications.
In the novel's opening chapters, Agnes's sentencebeheadingis revealed. While she awaits execution she is moved from a holding with brutal, deplorable conditions to a farm called Kornsá. Using one of her few remaining rights, she requests as her spiritual advisor a young assistant reverend named...
Beyond the Book
The Republic of Iceland, the setting for Hannah Kent's debut novel Burial Rites
, has a deep and intriguing history.
- Located west of Scandinavia and just south of the Arctic Circle, the first confirmed settlement of Iceland was in the 9th and 10th centuries by Norsemen from Scandinavia and Scotland. Though questions remain about the actual events leading up to the settlement, Icelandic tradition suggests Norsemen were fleeing the tyranny of the Norwegian King Harald I Haarfagri. According to early Icelandic records, Celts from the British Isles were among the early emigrants, having been taken as slaves and wives by the Norsemen.
- In 930 a legislative assembly known as the Althing was established (literally all-thing, general...