Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 322 pages)
I heard so much about Burial Rites that I knew I wanted to read it. After glimpsing a few of the character’s names in this book, however, I decided to go the audiobook route. Kent’s novel is a fictionalized account of a true story based in Iceland. So everyone (and every place) has Icelandic names. I figured the audiobook would be a great experience because I’d hear everyone’s name accurately instead of tripping over them in my head. The narrator chosen for this book did a wonderful job. Her voice was perfect, she did a good job distinguishing voices of characters, and her pronunciation was awesome.
The novel revolves around a woman named Agnes who, along with two others, has been accused of murdering two men. The punishment for her actions is death and while awaiting her execution Agnes is sent from her prison (where holding her has apparently become too costly) to live with a family in an area of Iceland where she actually spent a lot of her youth.
At first the family doesn’t know what to make of the prisoner who now shares their home, but they slowly warm to her. Gradually, Agnes grows comfortable enough to share the true story behind the murders she has been charged with. It took a while to get to this point, but she was able to open up thanks to the help of a young reverend named Tóti who was tasked with saving her soul before her execution.
I think this book would have resonated with me more if I’d read the physical book because I would have been better able to immerse myself in the story. I enjoyed the book overall, though it’s definitely depressing. I think what most grabbed me was the way Kent handled the ending. I thought she did a really amazing job with that. Also, the epilogue gives a little more information on the true story of Agnes and explains how Kent acquired the information she used in this novel. Very well written. Good read if you like literary and/or historical fiction.