Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Brief: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent



Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
336 pages
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
source: personal copy (ebook and audiobook)


This book has been languishing on my kindle for quite some time. Thanks to an audible daily deal, I recently snapped up the audio version (skillfully narrated by  Morven Christie) and began a read/listen combination.

Burial Rites  is based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. She was convicted of the brutal 1828 murder of her former master, then sent to live on a remote farm while awaiting execution. As she forms a relationship with the family and a young minister, her story is gradually revealed.

Iceland itself is central to the story - the landscape, weather, light and darkness, and even its smells. Burial Rites  is a novel for the senses, and the audiobook adds to the overall experience. I loved the author's portrayal of the country and her characterization of Agnes. The gradual reveal of Agnes' story kept me reading... surprisingly skillful for a debut novelist. I have added Kent's second novel, The Good People, to my wish list.

My rating:

30 comments:

  1. I remember when this book first came out and got a lot of great reviews. I need to make the time to get to it.

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  2. I loved this book, but I still haven’t read The Good People. Mostly, Burial Rites made me want to visit Iceland.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. AJ - Iceland is pretty much at the top of my travel list now, too!

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  3. Oh I'm so glad you really liked it, and so glad you listened to the audio- it was perfect. I have an almost paternal reaction to this book, I want everyone to love it as much as I did. The second book didn't work for me quite so well, but I'll definitely pick up her third book whenever that comes (I loved Burial Rites so much...)

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    1. Louise - Even though it was a read/listen combo, I think I listened to most of it. The audio definitely added to the atmosphere and overall experience for me. Sorry to hear The Good People didn't work as well for you... I'll get to it eventually.

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  4. Our mystery group read and discussed this one last fall. I liked it very much, though it was not a 'typical' mystery. However, the group as a whole was quite divided on the book. They either really liked it or not at all. Sadly, I was out of town for the discussion, but I got a full update from the group member who subs for me when I'm out. I listened to it too.

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    1. Kay - I agree... this book was not a typical mystery, but it sure worked for me. I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to everyone. Would have loved to sit in on your group's discussion!

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  5. I don't remember seeing this book before but I'm sure I have. It sounds good, as does The Good People. Thanks for linking to the books.

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    1. Vicki - You're welcome. It's one one only a few books I've read set in Iceland.

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  6. This sounds like a terrific story--Iceland is an enticing setting, but I don't think I've actually read a book set there. I will have to put the audio on my library list. Thanks for the review ad recommendation.

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    1. JaneGS - I can only think of one other book I've read set in Iceland - Independent People by Halldor Laxness. It was incredibly bleak, but I liked it at the the time.

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  7. Did you find the accent or the foreign words were hard to follow on the audiobook? I think I started this one on audio and then I thought maybe I'd follow the print version better. What do you think? thanks

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    1. Susan - The foreign words (mostly names of people and places) were not especially hard to follow on the audio, but it took longer than expected to recognize them when I came across them in print. In a couple of cases, the spelling was not at all as I'd imagined. The narrator speaks quite slowly... once I got the names and overall atmosphere down, I listened at a slightly faster speed.

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  8. I've seen a lot of good reviews for this one! The setting alone intrigues me!

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    1. Angela - The setting is what initially drew me to the book, too.

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  9. I read this a while ago and while I liked the story, I thought it was very stark and too matter of fact. Maybe it was a translation issue.

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    1. Mystica - I can understand that. The setting and the story are both quite stark....

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  10. I think I said this before, but I've had it on my list for a while. I like the idea of the listen/read combo, maybe I'll go that route.

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  11. I've just put this on hold. The library summary says that the chapters begin with archival documents - always a plus for me!

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    1. Lisa - I actually thought of you when I discovered some documents were included! Hope you enjoy it, too.

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  12. I have added you to my Blogger Reading List. Thanks for the follow on Twitter! I have always meant to read Burial Rites and your review has reminded me to do so. It looks like we have some favorite bloggers in common!

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    1. Thanks, Judy! I've noticed your comments on several blogs I read, followed the link to your blog, and added you to my reader, too. Seeing you pop up on twitter was a pleasant surprise :)

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  13. The setting of the novel sounds wonderful and the story compelling. Your review makes me want to try this book!

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    1. Monica - I'm impressed with the way the author handled this story... very creative given the small amount of factual materials available. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you decided to give it a go.

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  14. I've seen this book around but I don't think I've ever given it a second look. It sounds wonderful and you've definitely sold me on it!

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    1. Katherine - Try adding in the audio version, too, if you get a chance to read it... it definitely adds to the experience.

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  15. I read Burial Rites last year and I loved it. It was one of my favorite reads from 2018.

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    1. Aileen - I was really impressed with Burial Rites, both the writing and the author's imagination. Did you read her newer novel?

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