Burial Rites is a well-written novel about Agnes, a woman slated for execution in the early 19th century Iceland. In fact Agnes became the last person ever executed in Iceland and her tale is not a happy one by any means. This book evokes a sense of what Iceland at that time was like and I became immersed. I not only felt the characters I felt Iceland as well. The tale is dark and depressing but it really draws you in and you keep thinking about it for long periods afterwards. Kent lends some doubt into Agnes' guilt which makes the result even harder to swallow, especially after you spend hundreds of pages getting to know and actually liking Agnes. I think this is in fact how the family felt at the end as well, they disliked having Agnes in their home but came to accept and like her as an individual despite everything and did not want to see her perish.
It has been about a week since I finished the novel and I can still "feel" Iceland. I still wonder about whether Agnes was truly guilty and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bitter about her execution. (Kent seems to allude to the possibility that District Commissioner Bjorn Blondal had it out for Agnes, seemingly because she was a strong, intelligent woman. He likes his women meek and mild it seems. I would not be surprised if this were true.) I think this says a lot about Kent's writing as I had never even heard of Agnes prior to picking up this novel.
*The only issue I truly took with the novel was the use of animal killings and the brutality of butchering. This impacts me more probably than the average individual as I am vegan. But I will say, even if it was accidental, the mirroring of the sheep killings and butchering to that of the two murdered men struck me as compelling.