Author: Hannah Kent
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Burial Rites is a grim yet extremely powerful story which details the story of the last woman to publically beheaded in Iceland before capital punishment was abolished. Hannah Kent’s tireless research reveals the life and death of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a fiercely independent yet emotionally wrecked woman accused of murdering two men. Burial Rites does not argue her guilt or innocence; rather, the story focuses on Agnes’s last days of forced labor on a countryside farm and her relationships with those around her.
Kent’s writing vividly captures 1830’s life in the brutal and unforgiving Icelandic landscape. As Agnes’s date of exaction looms closer, both the story’s characters and the reader/listener simultaneously become closer to Agnes. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, and the narrator does an excellent job of capturing all the character’s emotions.
By the end of the story I felt sympathy forAgnes and those around her. I believe that her story was very well-drawn, although certain other characters remained weakly defined throughout the novel. That, combined with a somewhat slow narrative pace makes me award the book 4 out of 5 stars. Regardless of any shortcomings, the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir is a powerful rumination on life, love, friendship, and death which will stay with you long after the last page.