“Any woman knows that a thread, once woven, is fixed in place; the only way to smooth a mistake is to let it all unravel.”
It’s no secret that I have a really hard time with Historical Fiction. I cannot really pinpoint exactly what doesn’t work in it for me. I like slow, character-driven stories and a lot of time Historical Fiction is that, so why I am so put off by it is beyond my comprehension. So I was reluctant going into Burial Rites, but ultimately I had an overwhelmingly positive reviews I read and the fact that the book was handpicked for me (more on that HERE) to convince me to pick it up. And I am so glad I did.
Burial Rites follows the story of Agnes Magnusdóttir, who was convicted of murder of two men in the early 1800s in Iceland. She is the last person to be publicly beheaded and this is the story of her awaiting her sentence on a farm with a family who was forced to accept to keep her there.
This book is wonderful on so many levels. First and foremost, I really love Agnes as a main character. Hannah Kent mentioned in her author’s note that she tried to portray Agnes more ambiguously and I think she really managed that. And not only that – I found Agnes to be a character that you could easily relate to and have compassion for, despite the fact that we know that she is convicted of murder. I think this story really played on the fact that people are complex and multilayered and that was wonderfully portrayed in Agnes’ character. I love that the book explored the themes of what constitutes a monster and also how we judge and label certain people that society has deemed undesirable.
I also absolutely loved Margrét (who is the woman in whose custody Agnes is) and I loved the dynamic between her and Agnes. I think it was beautifully done, and I really loved how the author portrayed different types of dynamics between female characters.
I also really enjoyed the structure of this novel – most of the scenes are told in third person, but then we get Agnes’ POV, which is in first person, and it was a great contrast that was really used to its full potential. Seeing how Agnes is perceived and treated by other people in her surrounding, and then contrasting that with Agnes’ own thoughts and feelings was a really clever way to structure the story and I really loved that. Moreover, I feel like this really added a lot of drive to the novel, that managed to remain quite suspenseful and with plenty of momentum, despite the fact that we know how things play out, we know what happens at the end. I think that’s what makes this novel so compelling – its ability to keep your attention, despite it being very introverted and slow.
I found the writing to be really breathtaking. I felt like Hannah Kent really took care with this story and I think that was really obvious in her writing, which I really appreciated. Her writing leaps off the page and really mesmerizes the reader. I really think that Hannah Kent is unbelievably talented and I am so impressed by the fact that this was her debut. I have a lot of this book tabbed, and I cannot wait to go back and reread some of the passages, since I really think they are beautiful.
There isn’t anything I disliked, not really. This is a bit hard to get into, I will say, but I never felt like it was a chore to pick up. It’s just really slow and introspective, so it takes some time to get used to that and really get into the book. Other than that, this was quite honestly amazing and I loved it!
I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel. The writing is stunning, and the book really dives deep into the complex thoughts and feelings of a woman who is awaiting her death, and I really, really loved this novel, and I would not be surprised if it ended up on my best of the year list.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you read this novel? Is it on your TBR? What were your thoughts if you did like it? Let me know!
Also, sorry I haven’t been posting much – my computer is broken and it makes me sad + it leaves me unable to post, and sadly, I am not someone who schedules post in advance because I am a disaster human. Anyways, I’ll try and post more and hopefully, they’ll fix my computer soon! Hope everyone is well and thriving!
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