Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: Burial Rites

When Sheila from The Deliberate Reader introduced a new on-line Facebook book club, I thought I would jump at the chance to join in the discussions. Sadly, I've only read one other book discussed by the group, Big, Little Lies. Finally, I managed to synchronize my reading schedule to the book club schedule and read this month's book, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. The topic sounded interesting and it seemed short enough to be a quick read. I was right on both counts.

This book is a fictional account of a real historical event in northern Iceland. Agnes Magnusdottir has been accused of the murder of two men, and is awaiting execution. One family has been chosen to house the woman until her official sentence can be communicated from the superiors. The family is fearful of her presence among them, but they soften as time goes on and as Agnes pours out to them and to her selected priest the dreadful story of her life.

Kent manages to keep the reader turning pages, unsure of whether Agnes is guilty or innocent, until the very end of the story. Knowing that the tale is based on fact (Agnes was the last woman to be publicly beheaded in Iceland) and catching a glimmer of the atmosphere, language, and customs of the Icelandic culture enriched the telling immensely. I quickly devoured the book. I only wish I could have listened to the book in audio form (should have requested it by interlibrary loan in that format several weeks ago) so that I could have had a better handle on the pronunciations of words and names.

When I went to search for the image of the book cover to accompany my review, I found four different covers. The one above is the cover gracing the book I checked out from my local library. This second image is the most perplexing of all, to me, because I find that it neither entices nor explains anything about the book. The third image, is also confusing ... more feather imagery ... and I don't care for it either. Finally, I think this fourth image is my favorite because it conveys the barrenness and the desolation of both the area and the mood of the story. It is very stark and cold. I prefer it to the bold image of a woman in profile with the letters of the title covering over her image. But, to be honest, I don't think any of these covers would have caused me to pick up the book if I hadn't been participating in this on-line book club.

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