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Burial Rites

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  23,475 ratings  ·  4,173 reviews
A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

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 murder
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published August 29th 2013 by Picador
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I cannot write a review that can do this book justice. This is what goes through my head:

* I am so happy I give few books five stars, because then when I run into a book this good my five star rating means something!

* You need a strong stomach for this book. I have warned you.

* Once you start you will not be able to read or do anything else.

* There is NO humor in this book. I always need humor, except NOT here. Don't ask me why! I just didn't need it. I was riveted from start to finish. I neede
“They will say ‘Agnes’ and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother. But they will not see me. I will not be there.”
On 12 January, 1830, the last instance of capital punishment in Iceland occurred when Friðrik Sigurðsson and Agnes Magnúsdóttir were executed in Vatnsdalshólar in Húnavatnssýsla, for the murder of two men.

While often painted as “monstrous”, a cold-blooded murderer, a figure
I have literally just closed the covers on this book and my heart feels heavy. A novel based on true events and characters, Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir; a woman condemned to death for the murder of her employer.

This was a haunting read; from the eerie prose, dripping in darkness, to the ravens that constantly circle the farms, waiting for a sign of vulnerability from the animals.

Hannah Kent creates the atmosphere of rural Iceland in the 1800's with flawless accuracy. I c
Brrr! This wintry novel about a woman accused in the 1828 murders of two men in northern Iceland was filled with shiver-inducing descriptions of the harsh, yet beautiful, rural landscape. Even though I was reading this on a warm summer day, the chilly language made me think about reaching for a shawl.

Hannah Kent, who is from Australia, says she became interested in the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir when she traveled to Iceland in 2003. Agnes was the last person in the country to be executed.
Feb 05, 2014 Dem rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dem by: Movers and shakers / Audible

. Just finished reading this book and reading the book as opposed to listening to it really did enhance the experience for me and I upped my rating to 5 stars. Great book.

Reading this for the second time. I previously listened to this as an audio book and while the audio version is excellent I wanted to read this as I think it will enhance the experience even more.

Burial Rites is the extraordinary haunting debut novel by Hannah Kent an Australian Writer. This book is set in Iceland in 1829 and
Elisabeth Storrs
This book is a stunning debut novel. Here's hoping Hannah Kent has other tales to tell. Her language is lyrical and the character of Agnes is complex and poignant. In a way, there is a cruelty in how Kent draws the reader into Agnes' soul when one knows the inevitable heartbreak that lies in store for her. The other characters' gradual affection for the doomed woman is also cleverly evoked. At first I found the interpolation of official records to be distracting but ultimately I found myself ret ...more
4.5 stars. I don't have words.

This is the kind of book I would tell almost anyone to read, whether they were interested in the synopsis or not. It's not an easy read, although it reads fast. You'll need a strong stomach at times, which I knew going in, and you should know too.

The writing is what I'm having a hard time describing. It is crisp and sparse and clean and simply, beautiful. This is a book you read to experience Hannah Kent's uncanny ability. She is 28. This is her first novel. And I
I loved the sense of time and place, the details of life in rural 19th century Iceland. But I thought the characterisation was too easy, too obvious. Kent states in the notes that she wanted to provide a more ambiguous portrayal of Agnus, who has historically been branded as evil. But Agnus from this book is too good, too normal. Her situation is bad, but her character is one a modern reader can easily sympathise with. She is intelligent, a hard worker, attractive in an interesting way (but not ...more
Diane S.
It is very hard to describe the atmosphere of this novel. The coldness, the loneliness, the lives hard lived permeate this book, as the story of Agnes is told. Well researched accounting of the last woman beheaded and the last case of capitol punishment in Iceland in 1830. This narrative follows the last months of her life and is hauntingly and movingly told.

The district is hard put to harbor a criminal awaiting death and so Agnes is put in the care of a good Christian farm family. Her only prov
Annabel Smith
When a book receives a giant advance and that advance is made very public, it can be difficult for the book to live up to expectations. To me, a book deemed worthy of a $1 million advance should be so amazing it makes my eyeballs pop out. So in measuring my initial response to Burial Rites against the hype, I would have to say I was underwhelmed. It was well-written, but the language was not beautiful enough to have me busy underlining, as I am wont to do. The story was interesting but not strik ...more
In a small town in northern Iceland 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is waiting her execution for her part in the brutal murder of two men. District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and two daughters have been appointed to act as Agnes jailors leading up to her death. Horrified to have a convicted killer living with them leads to the drama that is Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

I remember hearing about this book when Waterstones released their Waterstones Eleven list for 2013. This list is their picks for the
Graham Crawford
This is a really powerful debut novel. Hannah Kent is mentored by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks("March", "Year of Wonders", "Caleb's Crossing"), and you can certainly see sympathies in common between these two Australian writers. They both have a strongly feminist voice and are concerned with issues of social justice and abuses of power. Brooks' books are somewhat more epic than this first offering by Kent, and I suspect she will ultimately prove the more popular author beca ...more
You will be lost, you are not going home, you are gone, silence will claim you, suck your life down into its black waters and churn out stars that might remember you, but if they do they will not say, they will not say, and if no one will say your name you are forgotten. I am forgotten.

You are not forgotten, Agnes Magnúsdóttir. Centuries apart, a woman from the other end of the world was spellbound by your story; after long years of research, she crafted a novel abounding in historical details,
Well, Julie sent me this book and followed it up with the full page rave review from the NYTRB, so I read it. Hmmmmm. Here I wish Goodreads had another response format than "like", because that chatty verb doesn't quite cover this novel. It is dark, despairing, depressing, and, in many ways, the hopeless story of a hopeless life. It's full of mucus, excrement, urine, rain, snow, cold, blood. Lots of blood.

So, my thoughts were, "Why would anyone want to read this book?" coupled with "why would a
Jenny (Reading Envy)
In my year of reading Icelandic literature, this book had to be included. The author is not Icelandic but spent quite a bit of time there doing research for the book. Burial Rites is the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland, for the murder of Nathan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson. Kent found many conflicting accounts of the story and the character of Agnes, and took the opportunity to focus on developing her story.

One thing I've noticed about books written about Ic
To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.”

This is the heart of the story Heather Kent tells in her debut novel. This story has a rather gothic feel to it. The amount of research she did is evident in almost every page and she has created a book that is historical fiction at it’s best. Judged and sentenced for murder and arson in Iceland in the late 1820’s, Agnes awaits her execution in the home of a “good Christian family.” This much is fact.

Burial Rites is a novel based on real events. In 1830, Agnes Magnúsdóttir was the last woman to be executed in Iceland: she was beheaded for her part in the violent murder of two men, Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson. Hannah Kent's debut speculates and expands on the circumstances surrounding Agnes's crime and the period prior to her execution, when she was housed at a farm while awaiting her fate. She is installed as the charge of Jón Jónsson and his family, including two daughters, one of who ...more
Based on true events, Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir who has been charged with a gruesome double murder in 19th Century Iceland. It made me shiver to read the first few sentences of the book: "They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, ...more
I feel like I have missed something, or else I read a completely different book because this site is full of glowing reviews and I really, really disliked this book.

I am baffled at the hype surrounding "Burial Rites". There was nothing special about its barely-there plot and thinly drawn characters. The constant and abrupt shift between first and third person narration was so disconcerting that I can't even say the book was that well-written. An editor should have taken care of that - it was not
Sally Howes
Melancholy, atmospheric and utterly haunting. It's been a long time since I've seen writing as good as this, and it's only the author's first novel! Hannah Kent is going to be a superstar.
Wow, has my year of reading started off with a bang. I’ll start with the easy part. Iceland is a country I’ve always wanted to visit. Learning more about its history, farming culture, and the wild landscape has piqued my interest even more. I was fascinated and at times repelled by some of the butchering and slaughter scenes described on the farm. Although many of the place names were unpronounceable (to me), I didn’t let myself get snagged or bothered so as not to break the flow of the narrativ ...more
The literary equivalent of spooky organ music. Dramatic, dark, stops just short of bodice-ripping -- well, it's kind of an alt-version of a bodice-ripper: instead of Fabio, we have a Loki-type figure, with spooky organ music in the background and some History to make it more legit... but there's just not enough imagination to rescue the stereotypes. I know the story is based on real events, and the writing itself is often remarkably inspired (Agnes' running monologue had some lovely moments), bu ...more
Oh, but this was a good story! And, a perfect follow-up to The Goldfinch- such different reads and yet both so very good. This one is so meticulously researched and so perfectly paced that I hated to see it end. Set in Iceland during the early 1800s the setting was as much of a character as Agnes or Natan. The freezing cold, the shortened days, the constant hunger, those back-breaking chores, the cruelty of people's assumptions. I felt it all.

Well done, Hannah Kent.
Michael Robotham
Wonderful novel. I'm in awe of Hannah Kent - to be only 26 and produce writing of such depth, poise, authenticity and poetry. This one deserves to make a slew of shortlists.
"Burial Rites" is a historical novel based on the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1830. There were no prisons as such in Iceland so convicts were maintained with a family on a remote farm. Agnes is sent to live the final months of her life with Jon and Margret and their two daughters and farmhands. A young minister, Thorvardur Jonsson, is assigned to look after the condemned prisoner's soul. He visits Agnes at the farm regularly.

The PAST unfolds through
Sep 16, 2013 Carol rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Chrissie
Shelves: debut, fiction
We all know we will die and yet knowing does not necessarily prepare us for the reality of the inevitable. If we are healthy we probably give little thought to our own demise, if disease or illness takes it's toll, we might put our affairs in order. What if though, we were sentenced to a beheading such as the main character, Agnes Magnusdottir in Hannah Kent's haunting debut, Burial Rites.

It is the year 1828, Iceland, when Natan Ketilsson and another are brutally killed. Three are accused of thi
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I’ve never known a book with such poorly realized characters to affect me so much. And that, my friends, is my rating in a nutshell. But for those who want more specifics, I will provide them. There will be SPOILERS: it’s pretty hard to spoil a book when the jacket copy tells you the ending, but I do my best.

Burial Rites is a novel, based on a true story, about a woman awaiting execution. It’s set in Iceland in 1829, which means it’s always freezing and people live in squalid conditions and stru
switterbug (Betsey)
Twenty-eight-year-old Australian author Hannah Kent spent time in Iceland while in high school, chosen because she wanted to see snow for the first time. She fell in love with this island country south of the Arctic Circle, and returned several times to do extensive research on Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, in 1829. Kent imagined the interior psychological states of various characters, especially the enigmatically alluring Agnes, and successfully penned a suspense ...more

-A bit too slow and unsatisfying for my liking. I was waiting for something shocking or poignant to happen but nothing did, there were no twists or surprises or profound moments. It was all quite predictable, and the writing had general tone of trying too hard to be moving and heart-rending. There were things I did really enjoy though like the setting, atmosphere and premise.

-I loved the premise, it was interesting to read about true events/real people that I'd never heard of before. It
This is the first book of this author and is an assured and a very deft debut novel. The narrative tells of Agnes who is found guilty of murder and therefore condemned to death after her lover and another man are found dead at the remote homestead where they live in Iceland. The book is based on real events that Hannah Kent has woven into a story.

The writing is stark and the setting is as much a part of the story as the murder. Life in Iceland 200 years ago was extremely hard and unforgiving. Th
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♥ Nothing Better ...: December Buddy read 1 11 Dec 08, 2014 04:29AM  
Mysteries & C...: November winner - Burial rites 20 110 Nov 28, 2014 01:53PM  
Should be made into a movie 15 214 Nov 15, 2014 06:56AM  
Read Runners: October Read - Burial Rites 42 56 Nov 04, 2014 10:33AM  
ONTD Book Club: April - Burial Rites 14 94 Sep 14, 2014 11:00PM  
  • Nine Days
  • Foal's Bread
  • Thornwood House
  • Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland
  • Barracuda
  • The Undertaking
  • The Night Guest
  • Elemental
  • Questions of Travel
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  • The Wild Girl
  • Fractured
  • All the Birds, Singing
  • Eyrie
  • All That I Am
  • Past the Shallows
  • My Notorious Life
  • The Aftermath
Hannah Kent won the 2011 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her manuscript, Burial Rites, and is currently mentored by Geraldine Brooks. She is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and teaches Creative Writing and English at Flinders University, where she is also completing her PhD.

In 2011 she was a judge of Melbourne University/The Au
More about Hannah Kent...
2014 UTS WRITERS' ANTHOLOGY: SIGHT LINES Kill Your Darlings, April 2013 Kill Your Darlings, October 2011 Kill Your Darlings, January 2011

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“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.” 118 likes
“I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink.” 64 likes
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