Burial Rites, Hannah Kent‘s debut novel, takes inspiration from the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, accused of murder and last publically executed in Island.
The author takes from the reality to describe the role fo women in the 1800 Island society. Agnes is an illegitimate child, poor, and her only role in society is the one of maidservant in the households and farms. Her last employee is Natan Ketilsson, herbalist, healer, lover of married women and – someone says – friend of the devil.
And its the murder of Natan and of another man Agnes is accused of, with the help of the other household maid, Sigga, and of Friedrik Sigurdsson, from a nearby farm.
In the months before the execution, Agnes is assigned to a family in her valley of birth. The family is at the beginning unfriendly and scared, but day after day they grow fond of Agnes, who tells her story to them and to a young priest who is to help her till the moment of death.
This way the portrait of this young woman grows page after page, her thought aware of the incumbency of death, and we can also appreciate the portrait of the society around her, people willing to judge, to accuse, but also to understand and to comfort.
* Burial Rites by Hannah Kent ★★★★☆
*I read this book in english