Monday, July 10, 2017

BURIAL RITES BY HANNAH KENT - BOOK REVIEW

I always find it difficult to review books with a historical grounding or are based on true events.

Hello everyone!

I am back with a book review, today it is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.


This story follows the execution of Agnes after she is convicted of killing two men. She is the last person in Iceland to be punished by beheading. The story is told from a couple points of view including Agnes herself, an Assistant Reverand she has asked for in her final days, and Marguet, the woman of the family she will be staying with until her execution date. Through archives, letters and Agnes's stories, the events leading up to the murder are retold and unlikely friendships form amongst the characters.

What really struck me about this book was the writing style. I had heard it was atmospheric but really, what does that mean? I found it to be engrossing. While the story took a bit for me to get into, just with the subject matter, the writing held me in the story. There are large chunks of text where Agnes is narrating her life and I got so lost in those moments, I've never been able to picture the happenings of a book so easily.

As the story progresses, we don't know when Agnes will be executed, just that it is coming. She mentions many times the crippling feeling this is and there is always this sort of foreboding over the story. Part of me foolishly even thought that she would get a pardon, once I heard the whole story, but alas, she is not known as the last person to escape her beheading. So there is this melancholy feeling throughout the book, despite the moments of kindness and hope.

This book was a little bit different because, for me, it wasn't about the characters. While there was a little bit of doubt, Agnes's fate was sealed. Kent didn't focus on the development of characters but rather the development of the tale. There is very little plot, basically just the daily goings on of Agnes and her keepers. But that didn't make the book boring, in my opinion, it made it easier to get lost in the story of it all. Kent tells us the ending first, we go into the book knowing she will be beheaded and allows herself to focus on the story of getting to that end. This concept is different from many of the books I have read and I found it quite well done.

With the prose and the story, this book will haunt you for days. Even now, the next day when I'm writing this review, I'm not sure I have fully processed every element this book has to offer. I know it will stick with me for a while because this review was hard to write. I find that if a book review is easy to write, I wasn't as affected by the book.

This is a heavy book and you will need a strong stomach to read it. There were times when I didn't want to continue, everything was just too bleak and real. But if you face that, continue on, things won't necessarily be better, but I dare to say that this book is worth the read.

Overall, this was a story that will haunt me, and I recommend you pick it up as well.