Monday, 11 May 2015

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Set against the brutal Icelandic landscape, Burial Rights is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman condemned to die for her part in the brutal murders of two men in 1829. While awaiting her execution, Agnes is sent to live with District Officer Jon Honsson and his family. Shunned by all who meet her and distrusted by the family Agnes' only ally is a young assistant Reverend, named Toti who hopes to save Agnes' soul before her death.

Hannah Kent's writing is so vivid I could feel the Icelandic chill on my body as I read and the hurt in Agnes' heart as she sought to be understood before her death. Even before I knew whether Agnes was guilty of the crimes she was accused of, I couldn't help but feel emapthy for her as she revealed her sad childhood to the Reverend.

Kent has created an oddly likeable woman in Agnes. Narrated in part through her voice, Agnes' mix of suffering and strength made her wholy real and relatable. Although she comes to the Jonsson's household a stranger who is both unfriendly and distrusting she is a fighter, hardworking and helpful, but one that has always been an outsider. Unhappy with harbouring a 'murderess' in their house it is the eldest daughter Steiner who befriends Agnes. And slowly, it is not the Reverend but the family of Officer Jonsson who become her confidants.

The landscape is as much a character in this story, a harsh and unforgiving climate much like Agnes faces against the local villagers who judge and fear her. As Agnes seeks for understanding from Toti and the Jonsson family every day is a battle of survival not just against the executioners axe but against the oncoming winter too. Agnes' story is of a woman fighting for her place in the world, but as winter draws in there is only hope left to hold onto.

No comments

Post a Comment

© Sundays and Ink. All rights reserved.