Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

murder! in Iceland! in 1829!

i think actually, despite a really sustained and for the most part highly successful effort to get us into the mind of Agnes (convicted murderess), that the character with the most depth is Iceland.

Iceland in 1829 sounds like a few steps down from Hell. endless cold, snow, sleet, freezing rain, sheep slaughtering, burning dung in tiny smoky homesteads just to stay a few degrees above freezing to death. shudder.

i’m not really certain what this author was after with the way this tale was constructed–we hear about the murder on practically the first page, but Agnes’ guilt is left open to interpretation until the very end. so we ask: did she do it? was she framed? do the District powers just have it in for her? or maybe that society would rather kill off a smart, self-taught woman, since she obviously must be the work of the devil? or maybe she’s just a slut, and we all know that sluts get what they deserve.

somehow though the question of her guilt or innocence never really grabbed me. the questions about God certainly didn’t, and i thought Agnes’ relationships with her custodial family were kind of ho-hum–interesting, but never really getting off the ground, you know?

so that leaves us with Iceland. i’m telling ya, this Iceland is enough to give you PTSD just reading about it.

weird book. really good writing at the sentence level, some beautiful (or harrowing) description. but… Iceland. scary.