Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review -- Burial Rites

Burial Rites
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Historical fiction
Objectionable material: Sexual innuendo, some violence.

Agnes Magnúsdóttir (that's the last time I spell out that name!) has been convicted of murdering her employer (and lover) and sentenced to death. Until the ruling monarch in Denmark can set an execution date, Agnes is sent to work and live on an isolated farm in northern Iceland. With rumors about her crime and guilt flourishing among the villagers, Agnes must maintain her privacy, dignity, and hope, all in the face of tremendous uncertainty.

Based on an historical event, author Hannah Kent has written a vivid atmospheric novel about the heartbreak of Anges' life: her pain, sorrow, her fleeting joy, and her ultimate demise.

Burial Rites was very reminiscent of another "Kent" author -- Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter -- a telling of the Salem witch trials. It had the same sense of place and foreboding, as well as the damnation of a woman accused of murder.

Hannah Kent wrote lyrically about the landscape and harshness of Iceland -- the severe weather, the farmlands, the seas, -- it was stunning and harsh. However, the overall narrative I found uneven. With a mix of characters all telling the story from different points of view, the last 1/3 of the book was told in Agnes' voice, in a long, drawn out account that seemed never-ending.

Overall an interesting, albeit bleak, re-telling of an Icelandic saga.