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Bleak but beautiful. Five stars with bells on It is rare to find a debut novel as sophisticated, beautiful, and gripping as this one The desolation of the harsh Icelandic winter is felt in the very bones, it s so hauntingly descriptive The feelings of despair the depth of fear are such, that I was almost holding my breath at times I resented any intrusion that halted my reading of this book, that s how gripping I found it Hannah Kent has announced her arrival in the literary world with an absolute gem of a book, which just flows from first page to last Stunning They will say Agnes and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother But they will not see me I will not be thereOn 12 January, 1830, the last instance of capital punishment in Iceland occurred when Fri rik Sigur sson and Agnes Magn sd ttir were executed in Vatnsdalsh lar in H navatnss sla, for the murder of two men While often painted as monstrous , a cold blooded murderer, a figure of Lady Macbeth style ruthlessness the truth is that there is a dearth of factual information about Agnes Magnusdottir While the instrument of her execution a broad axe has been preserved, little is known about the life of the woman sentenced to death, and publicly beheaded A third person was also convicted Sigridur Gudmundsdottir, whose sentence was later commuted to life imprisonmentThey said I must die They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mineBurial Rites is the product of a ten year quest to uncover what remains of Agnes Magnusdottir s life Instigated by an exchange visit to Iceland after high school, Hannah Kent spent the ensuing years absorbed in intense archival research, examination of primary sources and retracing of Agnes steps from her birth to her final resting place Kent called the result a speculative biography , a weave of fact and fiction, and her own dark love letter to Iceland While Burial Rites presents the question of whether history has misrepresented Agnes, the novel does not necessarily demand sympathy for her It does, however, offer aempathetic, albeit ambiguous, portrayal of a woman condemned and an attempt to understand what circumstances might have led to her conviction in a double murder The result is an exquisitely beautiful novel Kent s prose is rich and clear, rendering the melancholic, claustrophobic atmosphere of the Icelandic winter and Agnes impending execution in evocative language Agnes herself, awaiting death and exiled at the farm of a minor public servant, emerges from the pages vividlyThose who are not being dragged to their deaths cannot understand how the heart grows hard and sharp, until it is a nest of rocks with only an empty egg in it I am barren nothing will grow from me any I am the dead fish drying in the cold air I am the dead bird on the shore I am dry, I am not certain I will bleed when they drag me out to meet the axe No, I am still warm, my blood still howls in my veins like the wind itself, and it shakes the empty nest and asks where all the birds have gone, where have they goneKent writes with a kind of graceful maturity, a depth of emotion that befits the subject matter This a story about a woman facing her imminent death, a woman with one final opportunity to speak her truth, and Kent captures the desperation, isolation and grief of Agnes with stunning clarity The book is interspersed with Agnes inner monologues, and these sections are the most vivid pouring forth in a steam of raw psychological pain and striking imagery Though she spent much of her life employed as a servant and a period of her childhood as an orphaned pauper thrown on the mercy of the parish, there is evidence to suggest that Agnes was also an intelligent and highly literate woman And this is the version of Agnes that Kent chooses to portray beneath the hard and icy veneer of a woman reviled and silenced, she is compelling, passionate and astute.While living and working alongside J n J nsson and his family, fragments of Agnes story begin to emerge As she confides in T ti, the young assistant priest commissioned to reconcile her to her fate and to God, Agnes version of events takes shape as the remaining days of her life pass Through this gradual unwinding, T ti and the family come to confront the idea that the truth may not be all that it seems While we already know how Agnes story ends, it s this suggestion of dissonance between public opinion and her personal reality that fuel the novel s tension Burial Rites suggests that truth is open to interpretation, and is rarely as straightforward as commonly perceived Fear, gossip and hatred twist the idea of Agnes into something horrifying and loathsome an opinion no doubt perpetuated by the pervasive social, religious and sexual politics of the time To this end, Kent s novel faithfully depicts life in 19th century Iceland, and is immersed in historical detail without the narrative being weighed down or bloated It is clear that care has been taken to accurately represent the conditions of Agnes world, to reconstruct the framework of her life with as much integrity as possible The gaps in historical record, which Kent has fleshed out with fiction, fit seamlessly within the broader context of time and place, resulting in a story that respects its origins We cannot know the entirety of Agnes Magnusdottir s story, but Burial Rites asks us to remember her, if not reconsider how history may have buried her own truth with her body Knutur Oskarsson, who accommodated Hannah Kent during part of the writing and research of the novel, stated I do believe that the execution of Agnes is still an unhealed wound in Iceland, in the history of Iceland Burial Rites is a respectful and moving acknowledgment of that wound a reminder that Agnes Magnusdottir s voice once existed, even if it was lost to time. Well, this ain t Little House On The Prairie and Toti, I have a feeling we re not in Kansas any Through Hannah Kent s research we are transported to the early 1800 s of rural Icelandic farming life With her considerable talent for writing,research and her imagination for speculative biography we are privy to the story of Agnes Magnusdottir Iceland s last female convicted murderer, sentenced to public execution.Agnes has suffered through a life of hardships Through all that beset her, she remained a hard working woman, intelligent and worthy of anyone s friendship Yet because of her status as a bastard child and nothingthan a pauper, friendships are virtually nonexistent Iceland is a cold, cold environment Provided here is a link to an interview with Ms.Kent that I found interesting Hannah Kent discusses Burial Rites and speculative biography.https www.youtube.com watch v Q8gICpage 11 12 Toti receives a letter delivered by messenger Tell Blondal that I will meet with Agness Magnusdottir I m to be her spiritual advisor The servant gaped at him, and then suddenly laughed Good Lord, he muttered They pick a mouse to tame a cat page 81 Agnes contemplations God has had His chance to free me, and for reasons known to Him alone, He has pinned me to ill fortune, and although I have struggled, I am run through and through with disaster I am knifed to the hilt with fate page 87 Toti hearsabout Natan Ketilsson He was a sorcerer The old woman next to him had spoken The family looked at her He was a sorcerer, she repeated And he got what was coming to him Natan Satan, that was his name Nothing he did ever came from God page 103 104 Agnes Toti conversation Agnas shook her head To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things Toti persisted But, Agnes, actions speak louder than words Actions lie, Agnes retorted quickly Sometimes people never stood a chance in the beginning, or they might have made a mistake It s not fair People claim to know you through the things you ve done, and not by sitting down and listening to you speak for yourself No matter how much you try to live a godly life, if you make a mistake in this valley, it s never forgotten No matter if you tried to do what was best No matter if your innermost self whispers, I am not as you say how other people think of you determines who you are page 192 193 Agnes contemplation There is an urgency that comes with slaughter Why not kill me here, now, on an unremarkable day It is the waiting that cripples The sheep scavenge for grass Do these dumb animals know their fate Rounded up and separated, they only have to wait one icy night in fear I have been in the killing pen for months page 292 Excerpt from execution orders set out by the Secretary to His Royal Majesty, G.Johnson, Copenhagen, Denmark to Hunavatn District Commissioner Bjorn Blondal4.d The selected executioner Gudmundur Ketilsson shall, at Your Honor s home and with secrecy and encouragement, be trained for the mission that he has been entrusted with This will be done to ensure, as much as possible, that he, at this important moment, will not lose faith or control The beheading must be carried out in one blow without any pain for the convicted Gudmundur Ketilsson must only drink a very little dose of spirits. It is the early nineteenth century Agnes Magn sd ttir is charged with the murder of two men and is delivered to a small house on an isolated farm in northern Iceland, where she must tend to daily chores and seek spiritual guidance from a priest named Toti, while she awaits her execution They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt They will say Agnes and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. Burial Rites introduces readers to a setting not often explored in literary works The harsh winters of Iceland and the life of a farmhand in the early eighteen hundreds is vividly portrayed, with special attention paid to the prevalence of odors and pungent aromas When his lips broke apart I could see that his teeth were rotting in his mouth His breath was awful, but no worse than my own I know I am rank I am scabbed with dirt and the accumulated weeping of my body blood, sweat, oil. He had smelt her, then the sharp pungency of a neglected body, of unwashed clothes and fresh sweat, dried blood and something else from between those spread legs A stench peculiar to women. This historical fiction novel explores the story of a woman who once existed but was poised to be forgotten to the passing of time Agnes Magn sd ttir is reputable for view spoiler being the last person to be publicly beheaded in Iceland hide spoiler So haunting, so beautiful. |Free Kindle ♻ Burial Rites ☫ A Brilliant Literary Debut, Inspired By A True Story The Final Days Of A Young Woman Accused Of Murder In Iceland InSet Against Iceland S Stark Landscape, Hannah Kent Brings To Vivid Life The Story Of Agnes, Who, Charged With The Brutal Murder Of Her Former Master, Is Sent To An Isolated Farm To Await Execution Horrified At The Prospect Of Housing A Convicted Murderer, The Family At First Avoids Agnes Only T Ti, A Priest Agnes Has Mysteriously Chosen To Be Her Spiritual Guardian, Seeks To Understand Her But As Agnes S Death Looms, The Farmer S Wife And Their Daughters Learn There Is Another Side To The Sensational Story They Ve Heard Riveting And Rich With Lyricism, Burial Rites Evokes A Dramatic Existence In A Distant Time And Place, And Asks The Question, How Can One Woman Hope To Endure When Her Life Depends Upon The Stories Told By Others The writing is magnificent and fragile from the first sentence. They said I must die They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine A woman waits her public execution in Iceland in 1829faces her mortality Gloomy, distressing, haunting, and captivating Off the chart debut writing talent for Hannah Kent Incredible story What sort of woman kills men In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magn sd ttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer J n J nsson, his wife and their two daughters Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes Only T ti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes ill fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns did she or didn t she Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love In beautiful, cut glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland s formidable landscape, where 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 That synopsis alone had me enchanted, so you can imagine how much I ended up loving the actual story written by Kent and narrated by the phenomenal Morven Christie Speaking of, deciding to listen to the audiobook was one of the best ones decisions I made It helped tremendously in learning how to correctly pronounce Icelandic names and places And Christie s narration only added to the eerie and gloomy atmosphere of this book She s purely brilliant in giving the characters their fitting voice, especially the one for Agnes Magn sd ttir I would come to anticipate her chapters purely for the fact that Morven Christie s gave her such a richly measured and distinctly calm voice Plus, when I tried to pick up the book and read it by myself, it just didn t have the same haunting effect.And if you re not convinced after reading this next passageI remain quiet I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold on to what has not yet been stolen from me I cannot let myself slip away I will hold what I am inside, and keep my hands tight around all the things I have seen and heard, and felt The poems composed as I washed and scythed and cooked until my hands were raw The sagas I know by heart I am sinking all I have left and going underwater If I speak, it will be in bubbles of air They will not be able to keep my words for themselves They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt They will say Agnes and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother But they will not see me I will not be there This piece, written with such haunting and hypnotizing detail, completely seized my heart Which I quickly came to realize would occurthan once throughout Burial Rites The imagery behind certain pieces in Kent s writing were so evocative, raw and hauntingly powerful, I was left in awethan once And I was surprised, though I shouldn t have been, when I grew fond of Agnes Magn sd ttir with each passing page It was the little things I noticed that left me under her spell, such as Her obsession with foresights, superstitions, omens and ravens I loved this because it reminded me of my favorite magical realism story, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonAnd creatures should be loved for their wisdom if they cannot be loved for kindness As a child, I watched the ravens gather on the roof of Undirfell church, hoping to learn who was going to die I sat on the wall, waiting for one to shake out his feathers, waiting to see which direction his beak turned It happened once A raven settled upon the wooden gable and jerked his beak towards the farm of Bakki, and a little boy drowned later that week, found swollen and grey downriver The raven had knownSpeaking of magical realism, I was over the moon when I saw how seriously some characters took their dreams in here, because sameReverend, she said quietly If I tell you something, will you promise to believe me T ti felt his heart leap in his chest What is it you want to tell me, Agnes Remember when you first visited me here, and you asked me why I had chosen you to be my priest, and I told you that it was because of an act of kindness, because you had helped me across the river Agnes cast a wary glance out to the group of people on the edge of the field I wasn t lying, she continued We did meet then But what I didn t tell you was that we had met before T ti raised his eyebrows I m sorry, Agnes I don t remember You wouldn t have We met in a dream I said it once and I ll say it again This is how you win over my heart in a flash Also loved how Agnes didn t give a flying fuckYou called me a child, T ti said I offended you She seemed disinterested I wasn t offended, T ti said, lying But you re wrong, Agnes Yes, I m a young man, but I have spent three long years at the school of Bessastadir in the south, I speak Latin and Greek and Danish, and God has chosen me to shepherd you to redemption Agnes looked at him, unblinking No I chose you, ReverendKelis ft Too hort Bossy plays in the background, just like when Noora shredded William into absolute pieces with her words in Skam And quickly circling back to the writing, some passages simply left my mind reeling with how seamlessly perfect, dark, and brutally honest they were.Exhibit AAnd do you remember her death very well Agnes stopped knitting and looked around at the women again They had fallen silent and were listening Do I remember she repeated, a little louder I wish I could forget it She unhooked her index finger from the thread of wool and brought it to her forehead In here, she said, I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book It s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink Exhibit BBut, Agnes, actions speak louder than words Actions lie, Agnes retorted quickly Sometimes people never stood a chance in the beginning, or they might have made a mistake When people start saying things like she must be a bad mother because of that mistakeWhen T ti said nothing in response she went on It s not fair People claim to know you through the things you ve done, and not by sitting down and listening to you speak for yourself No matter how much you try to live a godly life, if you make a mistake in this valley, it s never forgotten No matter if you tried to do what was best No matter if your innermost self whispers, I am not as you say how other people think of you determines who you are If there s one thing that I m sure of, it s that Hannah Kent can write like nobody s business On that note, I have to mention the memory Agnes was talking about in the first exhibit, because I cannot stop thinking about it ever since I read it Agnes describing the death of her foster mother during birth it was painful and tragic and vivid, and I m still speechless that it all occurred during a stormIt s strange, Agnes said, using her little finger to wind the wool about the needle head Most of the time when I think of when I was younger, everything is unclear As though I were looking at things through smoked glass But Inga s death, and everything that came after itI almost feel that it was yesterday I hardly released a breath while Agnes recalled this memory This whole chapter messed me up AND NOW I CAN T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT Those were some masterful storytelling skills on the author s part Side note Iceland is one of my top places to visit, so I was beyond ecstatic to explore it through words And the author did a beyond phenomenal job of bringing the place to life Also, I loved getting to know a bit of history on the place and its customs P.S this photo essay of the places Kent wrote about was great to look into after reading And one last thing I want to discuss that ending I knew what was coming, but that didn t help ease the pain in the least when what happened, happened My heart ached evenwhen we got to see Agnes growing closer to the members of the family at the farm of Korns Margr t in particular was like the mother figure she d never had And so their goodbyes consequently broke my heart into tiny little piecesMargr t is reaching out to me and she takes my hand in hers, clasps my fingers so tightly that it hurts, it hurts You are not a monster, she says Her face is flushed and she bites her lip, she bites down Her fingers, entwined with my own, are hot and greasy They re going to kill me Who said that Did I say that We ll remember you, Agnes She presses my fingerstightly, until I almost cry out from the pain, and then I am crying I don t want to be remembered, I want to be here Margr t I am right here, Agnes You ll be all right, my girl My girl MY GIRL I had to stop myself from crying at this point Still, as I m writing this If one thing s for sure, this beautiful, all consuming novel about family, secrets, and murder won t be leaving my mind for awhile.Plus, listening to this emotional song really got me further into the storyNote I m anAffiliate If you re interested in buyingBurial Rites, just click on the image below to go through my link I ll make a small commissionSupport creators you love Buy a Coffee for nat bookspoils with Ko fi.com bookspoils This review andcan be found on my blog. ,, ,, , , , , , , 19, ,