Burial Rites

Last week, the day before getting on a 10 hour flight from Portland to Amsterdam, I quickly bought comics to read and then also, at the last minute, decided to check a book out from the library as well. I went to my wish list and chose Burial Rites by Hannah Kent without really thinking about it.

And, on the plane the next day, I started reading. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and I can’t remember how it got on my digital library wish list, but well, it did somehow. It takes place in Iceland in the 1820s, when Iceland was still a part of Denmark (which I did already know since I work with a Dane), and is about a woman who is sentenced to die for killing two men. While she awaits the confirmation of her sentence by the King in Copenhagen, she has to live somewhere, so a family is commanded to take her in and treat her like a servant.

So much about this book was intriguing and fascinating to me. The landscape as it was described (I’ve not been to Iceland), the way they lived in small dirt homes all sleeping it the same room, the names, just everything really. But I also loved the main character, Agnes. She had a hard life, things didn’t go well for her, yet she was a survivor and as a single woman, surviving in the best way she could.

What made the book even more fascinating, was that this whole book was written by an Australian who was an exchange student in Iceland, she heard the story of Agnes, who was a real person, and she based her novel on that real person. I won’t say much more because I don’t want to give away the end, other than to say this wasn’t the most uplifting book, but it was a fascinating character study. How Agnes changes when the family gets to know her and care about her and how the family changes with her in their midst.