Book Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Genre: Mystery/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Picador Pan Macmillion on May 1st 2013

Author info:

Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been sentenced to death for the brutal murder of two men, and has been sent to live her final days with a family on an isolated farm. The family are obviously horrified that a convicted murderess has been made to live with them, and they therefore avoid confrontation with her as much as possible. Tóti, an assistant reverend who Agnes chose to be her spiritual guardian, has been tasked with the job of saving her soul. In the lead up to her execution, both Tóti and the family start to learn however that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Based on a true story amongst the beautiful, formidable Icelandic landscape, this story will make you question what you would do to survive when the odds have been stacked against you and when society has already made up their minds before you have even spoken.


My beautiful sister, who is one of my fellow booklovers, recommended this book to me as it is one of her favourite books. I had walked past this book in the bookstore probably a thousand times, I picked it up a thousand times, and would put it back down saying to myself that I would buy it another day. Given my sister’s glowing recommendation, I went out and purchased it and absolutely devoured this book. I was initially worried about this being based on a true story, as generally, I stick to fantasy. True stories can just be a bit too “real” for me and when I read I like to be in a different world. But as my sister says, I need to delve more into other genres, especially if I am going to write a blog about books!

Firstly, I have to say that Hannah Kent’s writing is absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was in Iceland along with Agnes, like I was sharing her grief and anger and listening to her story directly. The harsh terrain and remoteness of the farm was described in such a way that I could build the landscape in my mind and see exactly what the characters could see, without things being over-descriptive. Some stories tend to get lost in the descriptions, but I felt like this was the right amount of descriptiveness for me.

“It was an evil sight. Dark clouds bore down upon the mountain range and under their smoky-blackness, a grey swarm of snow swirled as far as you could see.”

I picked up this story thinking that I knew where things were going to go, like it was going to be predictable however I found that it was completely different to what I expected. It was very interesting reading from other characters perspectives, but then in the meantime learning the actual truth from Agnes. I really came to love Agnes, and I felt really sorry for her and her situation. When someone is labelled a murderer, that tends to be all everyone ever looks at. “Murderer” becomes their identity and they are no longer looked at as a human; as a Mother, Father, Sister, Brother. Learning about her life and what brought her up to her downfall humanised her and by the end of the book I was in tears.

“They will say “Agnes” and see the spider. The witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother, but they will not see me.”

I am very, very glad that I read this book. I absolutely loved this book and every single character brought out an emotion in me. I 100% recommend Burial Rites to everyone and I also recommend you reading Hannah Kent’s new book “The Good People”. I am yet to read it however it is on my TBR list.

Because it is the month of Halloween, I give this book 5/5 pumpkins 🙂





  1. D. Wallace Peach · October 25, 2016

    Thanks for the recommendation. I tend to stick with fantasy too, but it is refreshing to branch out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • littlebookynook · October 25, 2016

      It is very, very easy to stick with fantasy. I always tell people that the real world is overwhelming enough as it is, which tends to be why I like to stick to fantasy. But I highly recommend this book, it was beautifully written.

      Liked by 1 person

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