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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites

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Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2013.

September 2013 Debut of the Month.

This mesmerising and evocative debut based on a true story about the last execution in Iceland is well written, well documented and exhaustively researched.

Agnes Magnusdottir is sent to a farm in northern Iceland, awaiting execution for the murder of her lover, but as she tells her story to a local priest it is clear truth very much depends on who it is you believe.

With its harsh winter setting and subject matter, the book is emotionally draining but compelling nonetheless. The characters and detail bring this forgotten time, place and lifestyle vividly to life.

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.

The Good Pilot, Peter Woodhouse by Alexander Mccall Smith

One very lucky winner will receive a signed copy by Alexander McCall Smith of his latest novel, The Good Pilot, Peter Woodhouse. To have a chance of winning this fantastic prize, click the button below. Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once.

The draw closes on 4 January 2018. The winner will be notified by 15th January 2018,

Good luck!

Enter prize draw Draw closes: 04/01/2018


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district office Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes's spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes's story begins to emerge and with it the family's terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed. Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we're told.


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:

'Burial Rites is an accomplished gem, its prose as crisp and sparkling as its northern setting.'
Geraldine Brooks, author of Year of Wonders

'[An] astonishing first novel'

'A compelling read, heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.'
Anne Berry, author of The Hungry Ghosts

'Hannah Kent's 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

'Hannah Kent has crafted a genre all her own. Burial Rites is both a compelling thriller and a profound meditation on a mythic landscape.
Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean

'Spell-binding and moving, it's the kind of novel that gets under your skin, moves your blood, your heart. A bravura debut.'
Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything and Dare Me

'With language flickering, sparkling and flashing like the northern lights... A magical exercise in artful literary fiction'
Kirkus starred review

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

29th August 2013


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Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan




Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Historical Fiction
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