BookBrowse Reviews Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder

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Based on a true story, this gorgeous debut novel is a searching exploration of truth and absolution set in nineteenth century Iceland.

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 sentence—beheading—is 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 Tóti.

At first, Agnes ...

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  A Short History of Iceland

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