Burial Rites is set in Iceland in 1829 and follows the story of Agnes, who has been found guilty of murder and is awaiting execution. The story is told through Agnes recounting her life up to the murders to the priest Toti, who has been sent to be her spiritual adviser before her execution.
I'm a little bit obsessed with anything Scandinavian, so I found the descriptions about Icelandic life and scenery to be mesmerizing. I listened to the book as an audio book on my way to and from work and in the gym, and I thought the narrator was wonderful, especially with all of the pronunciation of Icelandic words and names.
I really liked Agnes as a character, even though I shared the other characters' feeling that she wasn't telling the whole truth about what happened. I was torn between feeling suspicious and then absolutely bereft at the injustice of her death sentence. I think the ending of this book was written really well and I felt the panic and distress that the scene portrayed. What made this book even more interesting was that it is based on a true story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. I'm not giving the ending away here, as it kind of says on the tin what is going to happen, but Hannah Kent wrote it so well that even as I was listening to it, I was holding out hope that Agnes would be spared.
I think that this book would work really well for a book club read, as there is plenty to discuss and it would be interesting to see who believes her stories and who doesn't. I know I really wished I had someone to talk to about it when I was reading it.
All in all this book has made me want to read Hannah's newest book, The Good People (which I hear is being turned into a film- fingers crossed this happens to Burial Rites too)- and its also made me interested to read more novels set in Iceland. I even want to visit Iceland, even though it sounds pretty bleak in the book, I think there are places described that actually exist and you can go and see. I'm sold!
Title: Burial Rites
Author: Hannah Kent
Publisher: Pan Macmillan