— Hachette Book Group
Set in the desolate countryside of 19th century Iceland, Agnes awaits her execution. There are no prisons to hold her and Agnes is sent to live her final months with the family of a low standing government official.
Toti is an assistant reverend summoned to guide Agnes’s spirit to peace. Despite his orders to lead Agnes in prayer and verse, Toti is overwhelmed by his desire to understand her and instead takes the role of a friend, offering to listen to her story.
Agnes begins with her childhood, orphaned, homeless, moving from farm to farm, and continues into her adulthood until finally she comes to her time with Natan. Natan, the man she’s accused of murdering, called a sorcerer by some, a clever herbalist by others.
We quickly learn that in a land fraught with rumors, there’s no certainty of truth in any story.
The family - husband, ailing wife, and two daughters - cannot help but listen to Agnes’s tale and while some begin feeling sympathetic, others are hardened. Relationships form while others threaten to crack under the tension of Agnes’s presence.
Did Agnes truly murder Natan? Is she a danger to the family?
Kent tells a story within a story, captivating Toti, the family, and the reader with Agnes’s tale. A fantastic read - emotional and thought provoking. Highly recommend!
“Set against the desolate fire-and-ice landscape of 19th century Iceland, Burial Rites is a brilliant, multifaceted novel that traverses dark psychological terrain while providing pitch-perfect historical detail. Debut author Hannah Kent is equally skilled at delving into the mind of Agnes Magnusdottir---a servant woman convicted of murder and condemned to beheading---as she is at rendering the domestic life of the poor farmers charged with sharing their tiny hovel with her, as there are no prisons in Iceland. At once a brooding morality tale and a ferocious page-turner, Burial Rites is the kind of novel that asks serious questions while always remaining superbly entertaining.”
— Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX