Excerpt from Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent X
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


The messenger was a servant, dressed in a worn coat. He gave Tóti a long look before speaking. "Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson?"

"That's me. Greetings. Well, I'm an Assistant Reverend."

The servant shrugged. "I have a letter for you from the District Commissioner, the Honorable Björn Blöndal." He pulled a small slip of paper out from the inside of his coat, and gave it to Tóti. "I've orders to wait here while you read it."

The letter was warm and damp from sitting inside the servant's clothes. Tóti broke the seal and, noting that it had been written that same day, sat on the chopping block outside the doorway and began to read.

When he finished Blöndal's letter, he looked up and noticed the servant watching him. "Well?" the servant prompted, with a raised eyebrow.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your response for the District Commissioner? I don't have all day."

"May I talk with my father?"

The servant sighed. "Go on, then."

He found his father in the badstofa, slowly smoothing the blankets upon his bed.

"Yes?"

"It's from the District Commissioner." Tóti offered his father the unfolded letter and waited as he read it, unsure of what to do.

His father's face was impassive as he folded the letter and handed it back. He didn't say anything.

"What should I say?" Tóti asked, finally.

"That's your choice."

"I don't know her."

"No."

"She's not in our parish?"

"No."

"Why has she asked for me? I'm only an Assistant Reverend."

His father turned back to his bed. "Perhaps you ought to address that question to her."

The servant was sitting on the chopping block, cleaning his nails with a knife. "Well, now. What response am I to give the District Commissioner from the Assistant Reverend?"

Tóti replied before he knew his decision. "Tell Blöndal that I will meet with Agnes Magnúsdóttir."

The servant's eyes widened. "Is that what this is all about then?"

"I'm to be her spiritual advisor."

The servant gaped at him, and then suddenly laughed. "Good Lord," he muttered. "They pick a mouse to tame a cat." And with that he mounted his horse and vanished behind the swell of hills, leaving Tóti standing still, holding the letter away from him as though it were about to catch fire.


Steina Jónsdóttir was piling dried dung in the yard outside her family's turf croft when she heard the rapid clop of horses' hooves. Rubbing mud off her skirts, she stood and peered around the side of the hovel to better see the riding track that ran through the valley. A man in a bright red coat was approaching. She watched him turn towards the farm and, fighting a flicker of panic at the realization she would have to greet him, retreated back around the croft, where she hurriedly spat on her hands to clean them and wiped her nose on her sleeve. When she returned to the yard, the rider was waiting.

"Hello, young lady." The man looked down at Steina and her filthy skirts with an air of bemusement. "I see I have interrupted you at your chores." Steina stared as he dismounted, gracefully swinging his leg over his horse. For a large man he landed lightly on his feet. "Do you know who I am?" He looked at her for a glimmer of recognition.

Steina shook her head.

"I am the District Commissioner, Björn Audunsson Blöndal." He gave her a little nod of his head and adjusted his coat, which, Steina noticed, was trimmed with silver buttons.

"You're from Hvammur," she murmured.

Blöndal smiled patiently. "Yes. I am your father's overseer. I have come to speak with him."

"He's not home."

Excerpted from Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Copyright © 2013 by Hannah Kent. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  A Short History of Iceland

Join & Save $10!

Discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten. One-year membership: $29

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    by Ellen Cooney
    In One Night Two Souls Went Walking, we follow a young interfaith chaplain as she carries out her ...
  • Book Jacket: Truthtelling
    Truthtelling
    by Lynne Schwartz
    The word "unsayable" can mean something is too vast to be put into words. Alternatively, it can ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book Collectors
    The Book Collectors
    by Delphine Minoui
    About halfway through The Book Collectors, I was disappointed. I came into the book with a ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Sky Kingdom
    Blue Sky Kingdom
    by Bruce Kirkby
    Who hasn't dreamed of escaping all of the trappings of today's modern life and finding a secluded, ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Stories from Suffragette City
    by M.J. Rose & Fiona Davis (editors)

    One City.
    One Movement.
    A World of Stories.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline
The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.