Burial Rites (Paperback) by Hannah Kent

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List Price: £8.99

Paperback: 384 Pages.

Published: 27 February 2014 by Picador

Edition: Reprints

ISBN: 1447233174

EAN: 9781447233176

Review by Anne

5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars (5 from a possible 5)

Excellent historical novel

Set in the early 1800s this is the story of Agnes who lives in Iceland and who has been condemned to death for murder. Because the country wants to show its independence she has been tried locally and will be the first execution in many years carried out by the local authorities. Because they do not have the justice infrastructure Agnes is kept on an isolated farm belonging to a family connected with the local magistrate. She will live with the family and her servants until the sentence is carried out.

The book tells the story from several points of view and starts with those who have to have Agnes living with them. We learn about life on an Icelandic farm at this time which is grim and fragile. We see the work that the people carry out and how dependent they are on one another. The family start by fearing and hating Agnes and then they come to have a more complex relationship with her as they live in close proximity.

The second part of the book tells the story of how Agnes ended up being accused of murder. It is a sad tale of social outsiders and how vulnerable people are, especially women, who have no family protection, no money and no one in power to speak up for them. The story of the murder is very realistic and you can see how it developed - apparently the novel is based on real life events.

I enjoyed reading this book. I liked the historical background and the social commentary which was part of the plot. I thought that the way that the story was told was very effective in that the only voice we never heard was that of Agnes herself. Thought provoking, clever and definitely harrowing in places.

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