Pick of the Week: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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Australian author Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, is a grim, heart-wrenching tale inspired by a true story from 1829.

When Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death in rural Iceland for murdering two men, a farming family is forced to take her in while she awaits her execution.

The family naturally is horrified at the prospects of sleeping and eating next to a murderer. The only person who initially shows her kindness is an assistant minister who is assigned to give her spiritual guidance in her final days. But as the weeks pass by, the farm family learns more about Agnes’ side of what happened on the fatal night that claimed two lives.

Burial Rites is beautifully written and portrays the tough existence farmers had at the time. Kent adeptly imagines what it might be like facing a death sentence. Agnes is an unforgettable, tragic character who will stay with me for a long time.

--Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org


Jo Hansen has been a Readers’ Advisor at Cook Library for several years, after a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist. Libraries rock! She especially enjoys literary and historical fiction as well as mysteries and fantasy. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she enjoys playing with her chocolate Labrador Yogi Bear and watching great movies.