Friday, December 27, 2013

Burial Rites (Hannah Kent)

Every so often a book comes along that does not quite live up to the advanced praise it has received.  I was anxious to read Hannah Kent's Burial Rites since it was recommended as THE novel of the year by the head book buyer at a very famous store.  While Kent has meticulously researched the true story of the murders this book is based on, to me it was almost TOO if she desperately wanted to get every detail of the main character's story out there even if it slowed the plot down to a snail's pace.

In January of 1830, Agnes Magnusdottir, along with two others, was charged with the brutal murder of two men in Iceland.  Agnes was sentenced to death, and Kent recreates her last days living on an isolated farm with people who definitely don't want her there.  Toti, a young priest Agnes chooses to be her spiritual guide, is drawn to her story.  Burial Rites is at its best when Kent focuses on Agnes's impending fate, with the reader knowing all too well how this is all going to play out.  However, the real essence of the book gets lost in Agnes's endless telling of her true story, with Kent going back and forth constantly between third and first persons.

Kent should be commended for her thorough research and worthwhile topic.  However, while a solid 3, I don't quite understand where all the gushing over Burial Rites is coming from.