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LizzieBennet

Her Fine Eyes

Caustic reviews of YA books I adore. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Burial Rites

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

***spoilers ahead****

 

BURIAL RITES is lovely and poignant. The writing is beautiful. Unfortunately, since you know the ending before it happens, it fizzles a bit. Interestingly, I did not feel the same way about Madeline Miller's SONG OF ACHILLES--another novel where the ending is fixed and inevitable. I think this is perhaps because the plot and character changes were somewhat predictable in BURIAL RITES: Agnes is portrayed as a bright, hardworking, unconventionally pretty, sympathetic heroine trapped in her circumstances, and the people who live with her (and care for her) at the end of her life are wary and judgmental but are eventually won over by her relative humanity. These side characters (the farm family at Kornsá, and the assistant reverand), whose points of view are in third-person, are never quite as rich and fleshed-out as Agnes, who speaks in first-person.

 

There are hints at ambiguity that I would have liked to have seen pursued more: Agnes's first-person-internal version of her story is different from what she recounts aloud to Margret. There are hints that she is an unreliable narrator. (Although it's obvious that she also has given up on telling the nuanced truth, which is that she both loved Natan and suffered terrible emotional abuse at his hands.)

 

As I was reading, I even thought there would be an implication of sexual harassment on District Commissioner Blöndal's part--that we'd find that his vindictiveness was based on Agnes rejecting promises of leniency in exchange for sex (and that Siggy had given in, and thus gotten an appeal). None of that came to pass, although it's made clear that being older (in her early 30s) and being intelligent made Agnes seem threatening and evil to the court, where young, pretty, and seemingly simple Siggy was considered more of an innocent victim of her accomplices.

 

Still, this novel is well researched and so evocative of time and place. An accomplished, highly readable debut.