Hannah Kent's debut novel, Burial Rites, was a novel I began reading with some reservations. Iceland in the 1800's isn't necessarily my setting of choice. However, this novel was un-put-down-able.
In 1829 in a remote region of Iceland, Agnes Magnúsdóttir spends her last months before her execution with a local family. The parents and two daughters have not necessarily welcomed Agnes into their home, but have been asked if she can stay with them based on the father's position as a local official. His wife and daughters worry for their safety with a murderess among them, yet when Agnes arrives she appears to be just another woman - not extremely dangerous or frightening.
Through meetings with a priest, Agnes reveals bits and pieces of her past - from her childhood abandonment by her mother, to her being a foster child, and eventually an orphan, it is difficult not to feel sorry for Agnes. Yet, she did participate in the murder of two men. Eventually, Agnes reveals more of what transpired on the night that Natan - the man she loved, and Peter were killed.
Kent's novel is a fictionalized account of Agnes Magnúsdóttir's murder conviction. Much research was conducted by Kent in the writing of this novel, which was suspenseful until the end. When I began reading I wasn't aware that Burial Rites was based on a true story, and it wasn't until I was nearly done with the book that I looked ahead to the author notes at the end of the novel. With that information, I became even more impressed with Burial Rites.
I am hopeful that book clubs will enjoy discussing Agnes and Burial Rites. I will be telling anyone looking for a good book this fall, that Burial Rites is a must read.