Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
3 words: melancholy, unfolding, muted
Oh, Katie darlin’, you got me to read an execution book.
You might be magical.
Here’s how it happened…
During our blogger reunion, we were talking about my recent trip to Iceland and resulting skyr-craving affliction, and Katie (she of Words for Worms) was all, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to read Burial Rites! There’s skyr in it!”
I asked her what the book was about, and she said words that informed me that it was about the last months of a woman convicted of murder, who was awaiting execution.
And we all know I can’t bear books about prison or execution. Heck, I can barely even read true crime, people.
So I was all, “Ohhhhh…” and doing the shaking of the head and backing away slowly, and Katie assured me it would be OK. (And her excellent review does the same.)
So I went in.
And I survived it.
But guys, this book, it is sad. And it is haunting and it will make you look off into the distance, all melancholy-like.
But it held me, it did. Agnes’s story unfolds slowly, and the author puts you right there in the plain, chilly, little hovels where she lived as a servant and where she awaited her end. So you’re very present in the there and then.
Since reading Icelandic words is seriously hard work, I listened to the audiobook, and that was a good idea. (At then end, during the credits, they thank the person who advised them on Icelandic pronunciation. It’s the kind of thing that requires an expert.)
The craziest part of all is that Agnes was a real historical figure — the last person to be executed in Iceland. And during the months leading up to her death, she lived with a family on a farm, and each family member responded differently to the weirdness of having a murderess under their roof. Pretty fascinating character studies.
So: I’m super glad I read this book. Thanks, Katie, for giving me the gentle, necessary nudge.
So, readers… What’s the book that took you the farthest outside your comfort zone?