Last weekend, I not only finished my Hearts project but I also finished reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. The story is set in Iceland in 1828-1830 and is the story of Agnes who was the last person to be executed there. Because of lack of facilities for housing criminals, Agnes is sent to live with a local family to await the impending execution. The story centres on her relationship with the family she is staying with as well as the young priest who is appointed as her spiritual advisor. The mother of the house - Margaret - is suffering from a lung condition which is very common at the time because of the harshness of the environment and the inadequacies of the living conditions. She is suspicious of Agnes and does little to hide her contempt for her but there is a pivotal moment when the two women are sharing a late night and Agnes comments that they are "two dying women". They are both casualities of their environment and this draws them together. Agnes arrived at the farm in a state of degradation but she changes the attitude of the community and she goes to her execution with dignity.
From the outset it was obvious that there was not going to be a happy ending and there is an emotional charge hanging over the story as it heads towards its inevitable conclusion. I was spellbound and felt like I was holding my breath waiting for it to happen and when I reached the end of the book I burst into tears! I absolutely loved it and was surprised to read that it is Hannah Kent's first novel. I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Until next time
(I'm having trouble loading photos onto my blog which is why it's a bit out of place!)