Monday, 29 September 2014

'Some folks like to get away for a holiday from the neighbourhood...'

Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

It took me quite a while to review this book because it was honestly fantastic. It's the best book I've read this year so far, without a doubt. I don't know how else to describe it following those words, so here are some reasons why I loved it so much:
- The setting- so beautifully realised. The book is set in Iceland in the early 1800s, following the life of orphan servant Agnes Magnusdottir, who was the last woman to be executed in Iceland in 1829. Icelandic culture is not one I know much about, and I felt like I learnt a lot whilst reading this, which I love. The landscape beautifully reflected the bleakness of the story, so much that it slightly scared me. 
- The character of Agnes. I loved that she was not a perfect, well behaved heroine. She was not    She was intelligent enough to scare other women because of what she could do or say, and intelligent enough to realise that this made her an outcast. She was a character so disliked in her environment that it pains me to think of how much I would love her if I met her in the everyday. 
- The historical period- so beautifully executed. Hannah Kent had obviously done so much research (2 years to be exact) that the time period was so vivid and came across perfectly. None of the dialogue or plotting seemed false for the time, and I felt transported every time I picked up the book to read. 
- The use of other media- letters, poems etc. I always love this when an author tries their hand at putting in other pieces of information into their novel, sometimes written by themselves, sometimes factual. It always manages to sketch out the background so well and flesh out a tale. 
- The ending. It's proved inevitable just by reading the back cover of the book, but I still felt myself wanting to scream out nooooo when it happened. I just wanted Toti to run off with Agnes on his back, saving her. 

What was it about? The difference between who you are and what people see you as, and how this can affect your life. 
Would I recommend? Absolutely, yes, I don't know how it even took me this long. I loved it. Read it, everyone.

P.S. There was also a very inspirational interview with Hannah Kent in the back of my copy, talking about how she got around to writing the book and her writing practices once she started. She wrote 1000 words a day to get her manuscript done, come hell or highwater, and it took her I believe around three months. This seems like a good structure to me, one I'd like to emulate. Anyway, I would definitely recommend reading the interview in the back of the paperback copy, very interesting even if you're not into writing. 

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