Book review: Burial Rites

In yet further attempts to read everything on my bookshelf before I’m allowed to buy anything new I decided to open this book at last. It’s been sitting on the shelf, waiting patiently, for just slightly over a year. Now was the time to give it a go.

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Do you ever read a book you’ve been putting off and wish that you’d read it sooner? This was one of those books. I was immediately totally engaged with it and really struggled to put it down. I started taking lunch breaks away from the office so I could read it without being interrupted.

It’s set in in Iceland in 1829 and follows Angus Magnussdottir. Agnes has been convicted of the murder of her lover, Natan Keitelsson and has been sentenced to death. However, the district struggles for funds and so, rather than keeping her in an official jail until her sentence is carried out, she is given to a farming family to look after.

Slowly her full story comes out as she shares it with her priest and sometimes, in her own thoughts, to the reader. This is interspersed with beautiful if uncomfortable scene setting of the life of peasants and farmers in 19th Century Iceland, a world that must have been an unusually harsh one to make a life in.

The book is based on true events. If you care to do a little research you can find out mroe about Agnus  Magnussdottir and her life, but be careful, because I suppose that’s an easy way to spoil the end of the book for yourself. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone to read, especially if you have any interest in history, although it’s certainly quite bleak, so you might want something cheerful to read next.

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