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on 25 September 2017
In 1828 in rural Iceland, three people are convicted of murdering two others. As Agnes Magnusdottir waits to be executed, she is given into the reluctant care of a faing family until sentence can be carried out. A young assistant minister is assigned as her spiritual mentor.
Based on real events and much research, the novel paints a vivid picture of a farming community in Iceland in 1828. Work is hard, unremitting, and at the mercy of the northern climate. Social strictures can be as unforgiving as the long, dark winters, with a casual cruelty that is too often disguised as religious respectability. Farms may be isolated but privacy is hard to come by with families and visitors sharing the communal living and sleeping space of the badstofa.
In this land of sagas, the stories people tell about others are not always true to actual life. The stories surrounding Agnes slowly unfold in third person supplemented with extracts from documents of the time. Agnes intersperses her thoughts in first person and her reflections add a depth of feeling and understanding to the narrative.
The story is definitely not 'feel-good’, but I would not describe it as miserable; fate may be cruel but humans can, and do, learn kindness. And the evocative writing is a pleasure to read, conjuring with almost physical intensity the sounds, smells, colours and textures of life at close quarters in this beautiful, harsh landscape. I found myself pulling an extra duvet over me, I was so convinced by the depiction of the cold.
If you don’t already know the end and want to keep the suspense, then don’t look up the actual case until after you’ve read it. Hannah Kent weaves an engrossing story of how it might have been.
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on 9 November 2017
Burial Rites is a very good read. Bleak story, but largely engrossing. Left me with a vivid sense of time and place. What stopped me from giving this 5 stars, was that by the half way point, I felt the descriptions of the landscape, and the everyday lives of the characters took over somewhat from the plot, whereas I wanted Hannah Kent to get on with telling Agnes' story. That is not a criticism of the descriptions, which were evocative, they just went on a little bit too much for my taste. However, once the novel began to pick up the pace of storytelling, (around the half way point), I found the book a real page turner. If you prefer an uplifting tale and comedy, give this one a swerve, otherwise definitely read this.
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on 29 April 2017
An excellent read. Don't be put off by the title. A compassionate look at a terrible event. The landscape of Iceland in the 18hundreds is beautifully portrayed.
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on 9 October 2017
Brilliantly written, presenting people who endure a deeply harsh existence. Emotions are underplayed but deeply felt. The grim reality of daily life acts as a background to murder and much accepted casual cruelty.
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on 1 July 2015
Beautifully eloquent and atmospheric. The author writes with confidence and creates amazing characters and a believable story. It's hard to believe this is Hannah Kent's debut novel. It's a story that won't leave you and you will want to hurry back to at every opportunity. Really enjoyable.
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on 28 September 2017
Absolutely incredible. The descriptions of Iceland and it's bleak landscape made you feel like you were right there. Even though it's based on historical fact, so you know how it's going to end, I still found myself hoping and praying for a different outcome. Dark, emotive, interesting and amazingly written. I would recommend this to anyone!
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on 24 October 2017
The subject and setting were so unique, I had no idea what to expect. A grim and utterly realistic description of 19th Century life in rural Iceland. The book drew me deeper and deeper in. Thoroughly researched snd brilliantly written.
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on 7 November 2017
Fascinating fact based story. A lot of research must have gone into writing this book as it reads as very authentic to its location and time of the happenings. Quite harrowing at times but enthralling and I stayed up very late to finish it as I just had to know the outcome.
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on 17 July 2017
Great read - and a book I have recommended to several friends, who have also loved it. Original and intriguing, the characters draw you in and keep you hooked.
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on 29 October 2017
This was a compelling ,atmospheric story .It was easy to imagine the dwellings with harsh landscape around them ,I had no knowledge of Icelandic culture before reading this book and it gave a fascinating insight into life as it was in that era . The story of Agnes was compelling , a real page turner.Very enjoyable, interesting read .
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