Mel Campbell's Reviews > Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
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What strikes me about this book is its sense of space: of small, claustrophobic indoor spaces and endless, bleak outdoor spaces, of the ways in which the weather opens and closes someone's sense of the world, and how the events of the book unfold in a globally marginal space that's nonetheless suffocatingly small for people for whom it's the entire world.

With its misunderstood, taciturn criminal protagonist Agnes, and her gradually unfurling version of the events that put her in her current position, Burial Rites reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace . It took me a while to find my way with the Icelandic names and places, but once I did I found the book rather timeless, as if it could have taken place at any time since the medieval era.

I enjoyed Kent's mystical motifs, all the portents and dreams and poems and references to the sagas, but found them oddly underplayed. They're both dismissed as superstition and metaphorically powerful; they sit uneasily between the realist world and the world of Agnes's memories and imagination.

Kent's writing is precise yet earthy, full of textures and visceral fluids and excretions. The ending has a brutal emotional power, suffused with the kind of crushing dread I feel in nightmares. The book ended at just the right moment. For me the epilogue that followed flattened the mood.
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2013 – Shelved
April 9, 2013 –
page 67
April 10, 2013 – Started Reading
April 10, 2013 –
page 113
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: australian-women-authors
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: read-in-2013
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: australian-authors
April 15, 2013 – Finished Reading
September 23, 2013 – Shelved as: women-authors
October 15, 2013 – Shelved as: blockbusters
March 9, 2014 – Shelved as: award-winners

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Fiona Lansdown I just finished this one too... the publishers were raving about it so I had super high expectations but found it a little slow to be honest. Some nice language yet but not a lot of character development or plot really?

message 2: by Mel (last edited Apr 17, 2013 05:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel Campbell I felt there was a momentum building towards Agnes's version of the crime, and I liked the way Kent foreshadowed it with Natan's story about the foxes.

But also I liked the rhythm of it, the suggestion of a mood and of space (as I said above). It was tonal. I kept on being reminded of other books that had the same stark sense of open and closed space but could only think of M.D. Lachlan's Viking werewolf stories, and maybe then only because of the Nordic-ness of them?

I guess I was also hoping for the mythic motifs (especially the ravens) to be more integral to the story but they were mainly background. I think I have been reading too much George R.R. Martin!

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