Burial Rites came to my notice as part of a list of top books of the 21st Century on Twitter. I was intrigued by the idea of the historical novel about the last person to be executed in Iceland.
The story takes place in the 1820s and follows protagonist Agnes, as she is taken to be held prisoner on a farm while she awaits execution for a double murder. She is accused of brutally murdering the man she was housekeeper for, and of burning his house to the ground afterwards. The story of her life is revealed as she shares it with Toti, an assistant Reverend who has been assigned to help her prepare spiritually for her execution.
This piece of historical fiction is almost poetic in its vivid descriptions of Agnes’ life. It builds a depth around her character and really draws the reader into her experiences. It’s not a fast paced, action filled book, but rather a detailed character piece that really draws the reader in to empathise with Agnes. It builds to an incredibly tragic ending, probably all the more so as it is based on real events.
If you enjoy character-based historical fiction then this is well worth a read. It’s perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and I for one found it a fascinating story.