April 14, 2014

Book Review - Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent is a young Australian who lived in Iceland in her teens as a Rotary exchange student and was intrigued by the story of a murder and three convicted people who had to be housed in farmhouses whilst awaiting their execution as there were no jails in rural Iceland. This is the story of Agnes and the family she stays with. Initially most of them hold her at a distance but when you are a small group of people in a harsh environment, you have to co-operate to live. The descriptive passages cut as sharp as the cold Icelandic wind. Human warmth, family and love are placed into stark relief against the harsh weather and isolated landscape. Agnes' story is slowly revealed. Her end may have been foretold in her beginning but it is exquisitely wrought here in this well researched and beautiful first novel. "Now comes the darkening sky and a cold wind that passes right through you, as though you are not there, it passes through you as though it does not care whether you are alive or dead, for you will be gone and the wind will still be there, licking the grass flat upon the ground, not caring whether the soil is at freeze or thaw, for it will freeze and thaw again, and soon your bones, now hot with blood and thick-juicy with marrow, will be dry and brittle and flake and freeze and thaw with the weight of dirt upon you, and the last moisture of your body will be drawn up to the surface by the grass, and the wind will come and knock it down and push you back against the rocks, or it will scrape you up under its nails and take you out to sea in a wild screaming of snow. " p319 Wendy

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