Burial Rites by Hannah Kent : Book Review

Storyline Rating : 4/5 stars

Brief Summary from Goodreads :

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?

My Point of View :

The novel is not as bad as I thought it would be. I picked up the book mainly because it’s actually based on actual events – I love a good historical fiction novel. Ok….maybe it’s also because the book’s – no…not the cover, edges that is entirely black.  It made me think about death and believe that the story is all dark and mysterious – it actually is….so…..awesome book packaging.

Hannah Kent did a very good job on weaving genuine historical facts into the novel. It nearly made me believe that Agnes (the main character) did what she did for the reason she said. I have a habit of believing what is told in a story – especially historical ones, so I actually Googled for Agnes’s history but nothing much came up but her as the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

I find the novel’s theme (at least one of it) interesting as it depicts the human’s nature of being judgmental. The people of Kornsá, or of any towns that is mentioned in the book (the names are hard to spell…) judges a person by what they are told and not by knowing that person themselves. It is hard to determine who is actually telling the truth at times. What’s worse is that nobody will remember the good deeds you’ve done once you’ve done ONE wrong deed. I guess I could relate to this theme myself (at least not till the point of no return as depicted in Agnes’s situation). People who don’t actually take the time to know me, forms a certain opinion about me, and on top of that spread bad rumors about me. Most people of course would believe the rumors rather than me – who wouldn’t? They are after all humans, susceptible to rumors – even me at times.

That being said, how true is the story (or the truth as she believes) told by Agnes? She told Margret and her family, as well as the reverend, the “truth” that nobody could proof nor confirmed. Agnes’s reaction in the end of the novel could be because she fears death – who wouldn’t? So, I still ponder at the “truth” she told….could it be the real truth or just a tale she spun in order to make herself an innocent?

Well, if you like historical fictions or novel that is based on actual events, you can give this novel a try. It’s not amazing, at least too me…because I don’t normally read anything that has nothing to do with romance, but it is still one of the rare non-romance novels that I couldn’t stop reading once I started it.

Favorite Quote :

“It’s not fair. People claim to know you through the things you’ve done, and not by sitting down and listening to you speak for yourself.” – Agnes



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