Burial Rites

By Hannah Kent
Pan Macmillan


Hannah Kent

Judges' report


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.