Monday, May 11, 2015

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This one is for a book club night coming up and I went 100% into it not having read a thing about it.

I was sucked in after the 2nd chapter and could not stop reading. Darn going to work, eating and sleeping! *shakes fist*

I had no idea until the very end that this was based on a true story. Agnes Magnúsdóttir was a real person and was the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1830. Kent, in her first novel, did a wonderful job in humanizing Agnes and giving an account, based on actual official documents, of what might have happened with the murder of Natan and Pétur. I was actually hoping for a different ending, until I realized it was history and we can't really change that!

Ah well.

The story is bleak, the writing is bleak and stark and bare to the bones. It fits so perfectly with the Icelandic landscape and harrowing times in which it was set. I can't even comprehend the poverty that the farmers of this land had to endure during the winter months.

Agnes requests, as her guide to death, assistant reverend Toti. He is able to pull the story of what really happened that night those 2 men were murdered from Agnes by just... being there. Being her friend and a comforting ear to listen. The family whose farm Agnes is forced to work on before her execution comes to find out that she is a human being and, while she did the crime she was accused of, it was for entirely different reasons than anyone thought.

“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.” 

I couldn't help but feel for her and wished a different outcome for her. Historical fiction is still fiction but I want this version to be true.

 “They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt. 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.” 

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