• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

The Icelandic landscape is vividly evoked, the characters feel faulted and real, and the story is compelling.

Burial Rites is a beautiful, haunting story inspired by the true events surrounding the last person put to death in Iceland, in 1829.


Hannah Kent’s book explores the cold, brutal winter as convicted murderer Agnes awaits her execution at a remote farm, living with a family there. They are instructed by the authorities to take her in, but they aren’t happy about it. Agnes befriends a local priest who is sympathetic to her situation, and in time it becomes clear that Agnes and her circumstances are complicated.


The landscape is vividly evoked, the characters feel faulted and real, and the story is compelling. I still think about this book from time to time, and I read it years ago.


This book is part of the Greedy Reading List Six Captivating Nordic Stories.

What did you think?

I thought Hannah Kent skillfully captured the setting, the accused's feelings of futility in fighting back, and the panicked realization of those surrounding her that the truth might upend the events already in motion. Kent has also written a book based on true events in 1825 County Kerry, Ireland, called The Good People.