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An accomplished debut novel.....,
This review is from: Burial Rites (Hardcover)
Hannah West has chosen a really interesting subject for her first novel. She tells her version of the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir who was condemned to death for murder in 1828 in north-west Iceland. Because there is no gaol available and because the District Commissioner does not want the expense of send her to Denmark she is lodged with a local family.
The story of Agnes is gradually told as she confides in Reverend Tóti (appointed as her spiritual guide) and Margrét (with whom she is lodged). Through this fictionalised account a vivid picture of life in 19th century Iceland emerges. Life in the countryside was incredibly harsh and most people lived lives of hard work and poverty. The legal processes are well documented with Björn Blöndal (the District Commissioner) coldly working out the finances connected with the trial, imprisonment and execution of the suspects. One could even argue that their capital punishment was democratically carried out - a volunteer was required to execute the offenders and assistance at the event was compulsory.
The narrative is interspersed with Agnes's own reflections on her life and the events which have led to her conviction for murder. It is a compelling read and a very accomplished debut novel.