“Of all the names, one is a mistake. One is a nightmare. The stair you miss in the darkness.” – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Set amongst the desolate landscape of rural Iceland, Hannah Kent weaves the tale of the final days of an accused murderess, Agnes. The last woman to face capital punishment in Iceland (which is historically correct), Agnes has been condemned to death for two murders, and is sent to live as a ward of a bureaucrat and his family until her execution. Initially feared by her domestic captors, all is quickly revealed to be not as it seems as she begins to make peace with her fate.
Though the story seems like it should be predictable and uneventful, Kent spins a story that draws the reader in and does not let them go until the final pages. Her words are vivid, and she does a good job of using them selectively to convey rich emotions and scenery. In some chapters I could almost feel the Icelandic cold nipping at my fingertips, or smell the hints of a smoky cooking flame and fish hanging out to dry. Having only visited Iceland briefly, I found it easy to envision the isolation of the small communities — in fact, the landscape was very much one of the featured characters. One of those books that is immensely satisfying despite much action or adventure, it is the perfect book for a wintry weekend. (Though I recommend waiting to read it when you’re looking for something descriptive and smooth vs. action and adventure packed.) Easy to digest, it has been well edited and was definitely a nice read for transitioning over to fall.
Available from Amazon.com (or the New York Public Library, where I got my copy). xo The Book Bird