On the sixth day of Christmas, my literary love bought for me…
Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites!
Hannah Kent image credit: Nicholas Purcell
Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Burial Rites won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award People’s Choice Award 2014, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2013.
Is this your perfect Christmas gift?
The 2014 Stella Prize judges said of Burial Rites:
The year is 1828, the place is Iceland, and Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been convicted of murder and condemned to death. Billeted with a local farmer and his family, Agnes wins first the trust and eventually the affection of the family as the time of her death approaches and she muses over the events that have brought her to this place. Strong, sexy and clever, Agnes does not suffer fools gladly and is bitterly regretful that her love for the charismatic murder victim should have sealed her fate.
The novel is based on a true story, closely following the events surrounding the trial and death of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Without any labouring of historical detail, the time and place are vividly brought before the reader’s eyes; the plot is cleverly managed, and the characters are powerfully drawn. Unlike many writers who base their novels on real events, Hannah Kent has not allowed her meticulous research to swamp her story or to pull the drama of her narrative out of shape, and the novel is cleverly structured in a series of flashbacks as the true nature of the crime is gradually revealed.
Links and Media
- Watch Hannah travel to Iceland and discuss her fascination with the country on an episode of Australian Story.
- Read an interview between Hannah and Stephen Romei in The Australian.
- Read about the process of writing Burial Rites and Hannah’s path to publication in Kill Your Darlings.
- Read Michael McGirr’s review for the Sydney Morning Herald.
- Read Catherine Taylor’s review for the Telegraph.
Hannah’s recommendations: The best books by women she read in 2014
‘Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals was one of the most memorable and moving books I read this year. While its premise is intriguing – a collection of ten stories set in a time of conflict, each narrated by a different animal – it doesn’t quite do justice to the originality of the book. Only the Animals is at once exquisitely written, self-aware, funny, reflective and universal in theme. I expect Dovey will be scooping up the prizes for this one in 2015.
While Charlotte Wood’s Love and Hunger came out in 2012, I read it this year in one night after picking it up on a whim. Part biography, part recipe collection, Love and Hunger is a brilliant meditation on the rewards and significance of cooking – for others, for oneself, for family and strangers. I’m now recommending it to everyone I know who is equally in love with literature and food.’