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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

Shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

An historical dual-narrative tale set in Iceland in 1829 where three, two women and a man, are sentenced for killing two men. We follow the narrative of the “jealous” woman as she is lodged with a family awaiting execution. Through her conversations with her priest and the family, who has daughters, whose opinions we also follow, we learn the startling truth. The atmosphere, the detail, the morals and beliefs of the period and the raw emotions gently unfolding make for a very fine novel indeed.

Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2013.

reader reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Burial Rites a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'Burial Rites is a mesmerising piece of historical fiction and one of the best début novels I have ever encountered.' - Nicola Foster Scroll down to read more reviews.

If you like Hannah Kent you might also like to read books by Tanis Rideout, Anna Whitwham and Cecilia Ekback.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2013 GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD. Northern Iceland, 1829. A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. A family forced to take her in. A priest tasked with absolving her. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out: winter is coming, and with it the execution date. Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes's story.


We have asked a select number of members and browsers to review Burial Rites. You can read their reviews below.

Jane Pepler - 'Burial Rites is a fascinating look at real life characters and events from Iceland's rich history. A fantastic debut novel which was difficult to put down.' Click here to read the full review.

Lesley Hart - 'The storyline can be likened to a flower gradually opening to reveal itself, petal by petal...I would definitely recommend this book, a wonderful debut from a compelling writer.' Click here to read the full review.

Kath Thornton - 'It is full of emotion and atmosphere; you feel the fear and isolation of the characters in the book which is due to the remarkable descriptive writing of Hannah Kent.' Click here to read the full review.

Megan Olwen Williams - 'A tale of tragedy and hardship, which is bravely portrayed with unforgiving detail...Although based around historical facts, it is Kent’s imagination that structures the tale and gives it emotion and depth.' Click here to read the full review.

Sarah Harper - 'A terribly poignant, brilliantly written tale which will linger in your thoughts long after you have turned the last page.' Click here to read the full review.

Nicola Foster - 'Burial Rites is a mesmerising piece of historical fiction and one of the best début novels I have ever encountered.' Click here to read the full review.

Elisabeth Thomas - 'A spell binding debut novel from Hannah Kent which takes you on an emotional rollercoaster based on the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir...I was quickly drawn into this spell binding novel.' Click here to read the full review.

Phylippa Smithson - 'Brilliant! Burial Rites is a very different mystery and is absolutely compulsive reading as the story is unveiled.' Click here to read the full review.

Magda North - 'This debut novel is heart stoppingly good. I love, love, loved it.' Click here to read the full review.

Praise for Hannah Kent:

'A story of swirling sagas, poetry, bitterness, claustrophobia ... through the long countdown towards Agnes's fate, it is Kent's heart-racing imagery that lingers ... even the bleakness of Agnes's end, its gut-churning fear, holds an exhilaration that borders on the sublime.'
Sunday Telegraph

'A remarkable achievement ... Burial Rites will stand comparison with Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.'
Sunday Times

'This is a golden age both of historical fiction and of crime writing. A rare novel that combines both, this is one of the most gripping, intriguing and unique books I've read this year. Set in the harsh landscape of Iceland in the 19th century, it is a novel that bristles with beautiful description, that lays bare the harshness of women's lives of the period and considers the nature of justice.'
Kate Mosse

'Gorgeous and haunting, Burial Rites will touch your heart.'
Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat

'So gripping I wanted to rush through the pages, but so beautifully written I wanted to linger over every sentence. Hannah Kent's debut novel is outstanding.'
Madeline Miller, Orange Prize

-winning author of The Song of Achilles 'The debut that everyone's talking about

'All this research has paid off in spades: the end result is a novel so steeped in period detail that the extracts lifted from original sources sit eloquently alongside the fictionalised account, the transition between the two being effortlessly smooth ... Burial Rites is a debut of rare sophistication and beauty - a simple but moving story, meticulously researched and hauntingly told.'

'Startlingly vivid ... This is a tormented tale of love and betrayal and divided loyalties recounted with heartfelt honesty ... An exceptional debut.'
Sunday Express

'Hannah's rendering of Agnes Magnusdottir is as vivid and authentic as Mailer's Gary Gilmore, but done with greater economy and aplomb. She has resurrected her heroine with grace and skill; her writing style is innately lyrical and her descriptions are clear and beautifully constructed. Her dialogue is entirely believable, a thing not easily done. Some writers never get it right; Hannah has done it with seeming effortlessness in her first novel. Burial Rites is an amazing book. I was completely engrossed all the way through, and heartbroken at its end.'
Donal Ryan, Man Booker longlisted author of The Spinning Heart

'Haunting ... startlingly vivid, a poetic reimagining of a world where autumn fell upon the valley like a gasp ... Kent skilfully ratchets up the sense of antagonism towards Agnes but also builds a recognisable picture of ordinary family life confronting extraordinary events ... This is a tormented tale of love and betrayal and divided loyalties recounted with heartfelt honesty ... An exceptional debut.'
Eithne Farry, Sunday Express

'Remarkable ... extraordinary ... Burial Rites is thought-provoking and often deeply moving ... Beautifully written, this is a novel that will draw you in and touch your heart. Agnes will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.'
Daily Express

'This dark thriller from Hannah Kent is a must-read ... Gripping.'

'Haunting and beautiful' Independent: 50 Best Beach Reads

'An intriguing scenario'
Mail on Sunday

'A beautifully written and haunting story.'
Kate Mosse, Mail on Sunday Event magazine

'Burial Rites is beautiful and compelling ... it's the announcement of a writer to watch.'

'Kent is an Australian, but her beautiful first novel has the extraordinary setting of Iceland in the 1820s ... a wonderfully strange and haunting story.'
The Times

About the Author

Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she travelled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel.

Author photo © Nicholas Purcell

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Book Info

Publication date

27th February 2014


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Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan


384 pages
Interest Age: From 18 years


Crime / Mystery
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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