Janna’s Book Review #29 : Burial Rites by Hannah Kent


TITLE: Burial Rites
AUTHOR: Hannah Kent
PAGES: 322
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLICATION DATE: September 30, 2013
ISBN13: 9780316243919
GENRE: Historical Fiction
DATE READ: May 04, 2016
PERSONAL RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 / 5

“People claim to know you through the things you’ve done, and not by sitting down and listening to you speak for yourself.”

📚 S Y N O P S I S 📚

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect if housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Toti, a priest Agnes mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?


📖 M Y T H O U G H T S 📖


The story took place in Iceland during the 1800’s. I adore each and every part of this masterpiece. Margaret and Jon’s farm-house served as Agnes’s home during the times when Reverend Toti tried to bring back her faith in God prior to her execution. The place matches the flow of the story and every part is relevant and significant. In addition to that, it is very classy and informative.


Agnes Magnusdottir is a 34 y/o woman who was convicted and sentenced to die due to murder. She was accused of killing her master, Natan, so she suffered for a long time inside the prison. When her verdict was given, she was sent out to a family to be adopted in their farm (because the district commissioner is cost-cutting) while waiting for the day of her beheading. I am impressed with her character although at first I got bored and skeptical of her. She rarely talked. She observed a lot and was afraid to open up even to the reverend assigned to her (whom she secretly requested). Her weakness was loving someone deeply, even to the point of swallowing her own pride and honor just to be with the person that she truly desires. I hate the fact that she did not tell anybody about the truth right away, she let the people and the commissioners believe on all the lies. She kept the truth to herself and refused to fight back. If only the people who cared for her came sooner.


This is one of the best books that I have read this year! I love each and every chapter.  Everything makes sense! Reading a historical fiction is an eye-opener, it will make you realize the kind of life that the people during those times had especially those who were convicted of crimes. A true to life story touches a reader’s heart. Mine was broken and shattered into pieces a couple of times and I almost cried and broke down especially because of the last chapter. I did not enjoy it (not in a negative way though) because it is not entertaining, majority of the readers especially the young ones will not be fond of it. It may not be a fun read but the writing style is awesome amd addictive! Hannah Kent nailed it! She writes deeply, kind of dark but with justice. Ofcourse there are dull moments, times that I fell asleep, but despite of it all, the urge to finish it is always present. I wanted to know who the killer was and if there’s still a slight chance for Agnes to be pardoned in the end. It is depressing, very depressing. I don’t remember any part in the book where I become happy or overjoyed. It is the epitome of heartbreak and disappointment but it is definitely one of the best books that I have ever read so far. The plot is common, about those people who were sentenced to die even though they did nothing wrong. I felt sorry for Agnes because she got no one. Being alone is just so traumatic specially in her case. It is a good thing that Margaret, John and Stein came in her life together with Reverend Toti even just for a while. It is also a slow read but I wasn’t bothered. All in all it is epic and one of a kind. It is kind of hard for me though because there’s an alternating point of view and narration. Some chapters were in the 3rd person narration while some were in the first person point of view. I got confused during the first few chapters. Lastly, some words are deep and hard to understand.


“For the first time in my life, someone saw me, and I loved him because he made me feel I was enough.”

“It is the waiting that cripples.”

“The treachery of a friend is worse than that of a foe,”

“It seems everyone I love is taken from me and buried in the ground, while I remain alone. Good thing, then, that there is no one left to love. No one left to bury.”

“There is only ever a sense that what is real to me is not real to others, and to share a memory with someone is to risk sullying my belief in what has truly happened”


Beheading is the complete separation of the head from the body which results in death either through an axe, sword or knife. According to Wikipedia, Saudi Arabia is the only country that continues to behead its offenders regularly as a punishment for crime.

This book is a 4.5/5 for me. Kuddos to the author for creating a book that will be remembered. Every part of this book is amazing. It is indeed a masterpiece worth reading. It is well-written and the cover is screaming beauty and class. I highly recommend it because as a reader, we should all come out of our comfort zones once in a while and try something new. A  genre like this is hard to like but it will make you a flexible reader and you will appreciate history more.


I realized and learned a lot from this novel. That is the best part of reading a book, realizing what are its impact to your life and sharing it to other people as well. Here are some of them:

Always tell the truth. People may never believe you but it is your only chance.

Never be judgmental. Just because someone has a reputation doesn’t mean that he or she is already a bad person.

Loving someone makes you weak. Sometimes it makes you stupid. Choose wisely.

xoxo, JaNnA💋


One thought on “Janna’s Book Review #29 : Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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