Our March book club choice is the highly acclaimed Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.
They said I must die. They said that I stole the breaths from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke.
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir 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 Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, 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 realisation that all is not as they had assumed.
Burial Rites - newly out in paperback - has already won many accolades including:
A review in The Independent describes it as "One of the best “Scandinavian” crime novels I’ve read.’ Independent ‘A gripping and evocative tale that will have you hooked from page one" while the Observer says "Burial Rites is a debut of rare sophistication and beauty – a simple but moving story, meticulously researched and hauntingly told."
Author 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 Magnúsdóttir.
She is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University.
Burial Rites is her first novel and she is currently writing her second book for Picador.