My rating: 5 of 5 stars
They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke.
From that introduction you knew that the ending is not a happy one. Burial Rites, Hannah Kent's first novel, was quoted by other reviewers as her love letter to Iceland. As dark as a Gothic film, it pulls you back to the cold Northern Mountains, and thrusts you into the perspective of the main character named Agnes a woman convicted of a murder.
The book does not only contain the factual documents of the case, but also the ambiguous allusions from the first-person-perspective of the murderess, appealing for the reader's sympathy. Amalgamated with the melancholic tone of housework, farming, and kvöldvaka, Agnes recounts her life back from where she came from to the night the crime happened. Slow at first like the snowfall, and as wicked as the conspiracy of ravens, the reader searched for the same solace that Agnes longed all her life - for that soul-asylum - where she would find peace and tranquility.
What I liked about the book is how the author made Agnes so vulnerable, that I, as a reader, felt a pang of hurt that she is to be beheaded. She didn't deserve such punishment, she is misinterpreted as wicked just because she has the greater wisdom. Just like how people look at a raven - wicked, but intelligent.
I also love the unfolding of the household to where she stayed: the badstöfa, the fish and the cattle, the mundane hay harvest, and the knitting for the coming cold. These domestic backdrop served as a simple stage for the other characters who, at first, were aloof to her.
And you cannot just dismiss that love story -
"He needed me like I needed air."INTENSE, I TELL YOU.
This is one of those #laslasreads that shines so beautifully like the Aurora Borealis and gives you the chills like the coldest winter in Kornsá.
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