Hannah Kent’s ‘Burial Rites’

Burial RitesSet in rural Iceland in the late 1820’s, ‘Burial Rites’ is based on a real life double murder case. In the absence of places to detain criminals for any length of time, the convicted murderers are each sent to stay with different families across the area.

One of these prisoners is Agnes. The family she is assigned to rails against her presence, refusing to call her by name, and the youngest daughter in particular is shamed to have her living under their roof. In the months leading up to her execution, Agnes internally rages against her conviction. Gradually, through Agnes’ stories to her priest, and eventually to the family themselves, the truth behind the death of her two alleged victims is uncovered.

As Agnes tells her story, the family also get to know her and start to accept her presence, forcing them to question their prejudices. This asks the larger question of whether the legal system can be trusted to make the right decision Continue reading