'They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men,
and now they must steal mine.'
Hannah Kent’s debut novel delves into the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The year was 1829. Two men had been murdered in their sleep and the farmhouse, in which they lay, set alight.
Three farm workers were arrested for the crime and later sentenced to death.
This is the story of one of them.
Hannah Kent’s interest was first piqued in this story during a gap year in the northern climes ten years ago. Travelling with her host family, Kent was shown the historical site of the execution, now punctuated by three small hills.
While Burial Rites is largely a work of fiction, it is based on Kent’s extensive research over a decade into the story of Agnes Magnusdottir’s condemnation.
The story itself is as chilling as its setting. Kent writes with an incredible raw edge, enticing the reader to turn each page. You are instantly drawn into Iceland’s darkest winters, during an inhospitable time. A real sense of empathy is generated throughout the book, as the reader struggles with the sense of hopelessness, against a formidable landscape.
A brilliant debut, a young Australian author worth watching.
This haunting story will remain with you long after you have finished the last page.