Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Book Review


Synopsis: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Publisher: Picador

Date Published: August 29, 2013

No. Of Pages: 338

Date Read: March 25, 2016

Source: Book Depository 




How could I ever give this book the justice it truly deserves? Words seem to escape my head each passing moment, and I am afraid I may not be able to say everything there is to say. But let me try, let me share my 2 cents, let me tell you how this book floored me. It was so amazing, it’ll probably haunt me in my sleep, not that I would be complaining, it is the kind of nightmare I would dare have, yes, that’s how attached I was to this book.

Historial Fiction has never been my strong suit, it was the genre I tried to avoid for the longest time. I thought my comprehension or attention skill will betray me if I read books of this genre. I am afraid it will not pique my interest, or I will end up being too subjective. Safe to say, historical fiction isn’t my cup of tea. More often than not, when historical fiction is on the table, I’ll pass. It was the genre I was afraid too thread on. But Burial Rites made me a Historical Fiction convert. If every historical fiction book would be as good as this, then I will say, send them my way I am up for the challenge.

Yes, it was a challenge reading Burial Rites, but because I am in this phase where I want myself to be constantly challenged by the books I read, I went ahead and picked up this great book, best decision I have made so far. Burial Rites needed some getting used to, but when you already got the hang of it, it’ll be easier. At first I had a hard time reading the names, I dared not say them out loud though or else the dead will definitely rise from the grave and maybe strangle me in my sleep. The only issue I had with the book was it was slow-paced one, and because we have already established the fact that I am not a historical fiction connoisseur, I really took my sweet time finishing this one. Part of me was afraid that if I whiz through it I might miss important details and another part of me wanted to savor it longer. Did I mention that each sentence was written so beautifully? The author really took time to formulate the perfect sentence, it was really a pleasure to read. I kept saying to myself, was this really just her debut novel? It felt like she has written a thousand books already. Hannah Kent’s writing style is flawless. One I would definitely want to read more of.

I loved the setting – Iceland. This is the first book that I have read that is set there. The writing style made me picture Iceland in such a majestic way yet a little too haunting. I did not miss the way the author described Iceland as a gloomy place yet with a lot of stories to offer.

The characters were all distinct from one another. I highly appreciated the character development. As the story progresses you can notice how each of the characters intertwine   weaving a beautiful relationship, which made my heart ached all the more. I bawled like I haven’t bawled before at the last chapter, especially what Margaret did for Agnes. I also loved Toti and Agnes’ relationship, it was honest and raw. Natan’s character was the one I was so frustrated with, I hope I could elaborate more, but I would’t want to run the risk of spewing out spoilers, so I will leave it at that. I specifically liked Steina’s character, she had this stubborn and annoying side that I have grown to adore. And yes of course, Agnes – her narration of the events made all the book more special. It was the part of the book that I look forward to reading. Each chapter led to what really transpired at Illugastadir, I had my predictions but it didn’t quite meet what unfolded. What happened there wasn’t really a big shocker, it wasn’t something that would make someone gasp or would turn the whole story 360 degrees, if for anything it was narrated in such a sad manner, the melt-your-heart-and-bawl-for-days-on-end-kind-of-narration and I loved it. Made me understand Agnes even more. There was also this unsettling feeling taking residence in the crevices of my thoughts towards the end of the book, and all those pent up emotions added up and I lost it. I was really crying.

I really commend how well-researched this book is. It was really a product of effort and hard work. Hannah Kent easily became one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more of her works. Now go buy this book and devour its beauty!

RATING: rating_5stars

“I cannot think of what it was not to love him. To look at him and realise I had found what I had not known I was hungering for. A hunger so deep, so capable of driving me into the night, that it terrified me.”
― Hannah KentBurial Rites



3 thoughts on “Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Book Review

  1. Pingback: Nerdy Talks’ Top 16 Books of 2016 | Nerdy Talks

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