Burial Rites, by Hanna Kent

17333319Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

How can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? (from Goodreads)

I love when is noticeable in a book the thorough investigation behind it. The story, although fictionalized, it’s based on true events, and is partially told by Agnes and by an omniscient narrator, who takes charge when is ought to describe the other characters’ thoughts and feelings.   

The author describes beautifully the harsh living conditions in northern Iceland, and the typical activities of the farming families. Considering that the story is setted around 1830 I was astonished by the abysmal differences to what I know was any large european city by the same time. Seems like centuries away, and it really immerses the reader into what was life like in such isolated and distant region.

I fought the urge to google about Agnes’ story while reading the book, but I’m glad I didn’t and I didn’t spoiled myself the ending. Agnes’ life was tragic and heartbreaking in any way, and if there’s something you can expect from this book is that it won’t sugarcoat a bit of it. And even when you know it’s fictionalized, it feels as real as oneself.