We're delighted that two Picador books, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites and Lottie Moggach's Kiss Me First, have both been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
Burial Rites tells the haunting story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, an Icelandic woman condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men in 1829. The novel follows Agnes as she waits out the months leading up to her execution on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes but, as the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force everyone to work side by side, the family’s attitude to Agnes starts to change, until one winter night, she begins her whispered confession to them, and they realize that all is not as they had assumed.
Based on a true story, 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?
Hannah Kent and Lottie Moggach
Back to the present day, Kiss Me First is The Talented Mr Ripley for the online age. Leila has never met Tess, but she now knows more about Tess than anyone in the world. She’s read all of her emails, researched her past and asked Tess for every detail about her friends and family. Tess has never met Leila. But if she wants to slip away from the world unnoticed, she needs to trust Leila with her life.
At first, Leila finds it easy to assume Tess’s identity, and no one has any reason to distrust her. But as Leila is soon to discover, there is much more to a person than the facts and there are things about life you can learn only by living it . . .
The winner of the Guardian First Book Award will be announced on 28 November 2013.