This book is a stunning debut novel. Here’s hoping Hannah Kent has other tales to tell. Her language is lyrical and the character of Agnes is complex and poignant. In a way, there is a cruelty in how Kent draws the reader into Agnes’ soul when one knows the inevitable heartbreak that lies in store for her. The other characters’ gradual affection for the doomed woman is also cleverly evoked. At first I found the interpolation of official records to be distracting but ultimately I found myself returning to them to fully understand the attitudes of the time. We may never really know what Agnes Magnusdottir was like, or whether she was complicit in the murders, but Kent is to be lauded for this beautiful rendering of a woman whose life was beleaguered from childhood and had to survive the cold, harsh world of Iceland’s landscape, prejudices and law.
I recently reviewed Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, on Goodreads. I was delighted to discover that my rather brief review was chosen as the top review of Kent’s book by Newsweek in connection with their promotion of the finalists in the historical fiction category of the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2013. This young Australian author’s writing is superb and I wish her luck in the competition. I’m also pleased to see that another author from the Antipodes is represented in the top ten as Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries is also nominated. Make sure you register your vote as well by visiting Goodreads. I guess you know who has my vote!