Guardian First Book Award
Inspired by a true story, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites was shortlisted for The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, The Guardian First Book Award and The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards.
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover.
Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.
Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
Burial Rites is perfect for fans of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
'A story of swirling sagas, poetry, bitterness, claustrophobia . . . through the long countdown towards Agnes's fate, it is Kent's heart-racing imagery that lingers . . . even the bleakness of Agnes's end, its gut-churning fear, holds an exhilaration that borders on the sublime.' Sunday Telegraph
‘A remarkable achievement . . . Burial Rites will stand comparison with Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.’
'This is a golden age both of historical fiction and of crime writing. A rare novel that combines both, this is one of the most gripping, intriguing and unique books I’ve read this year. Set in the harsh landscape of Iceland in the 19th century, it is a novel that bristles with beautiful description, that lays bare the harshness of women’s lives of the period and considers the nature of justice.' Kate Mosse