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‘Beautiful Burial Rites’

Sep. 24, 2013
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The thought of a convicted murderer living in the home of local townspeople sounds downright disquieting, but that is exactly what happened in rural Iceland in 1829 when Agnes Magnúsdóttir moved in with a resident farming couple and their two young daughters to await her execution. Set against the stark and formidable Icelandic landscape, the historical novel Burial Rites is a literary debut that is inspired by true events.

Author Hannah Kent brings Agnes vividly to life as we follow her last days leading up to her beheading for the heinous stabbing death of her former employer and his friend. Horrified to have a convicted murderer living in their midst, the Jónsson family avoids interacting with Agnes and only Tóti, the reverend Agnes has requested as her spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to save her eternal soul. Throughout the winter months, though, Agnes’ story emerges and the family begins to question the truth of the original tale they’ve been told.

Burial Rites is beautiful and compelling. This meticulously researched novel is a multidimensional saga spanning many months and told through the eyes of numerous narrators. It paints an extremely descriptive picture of the harsh, desolate Icelandic countryside and the isolated lives of a rural family living in the distant 19th century.

Hannah Kent is an Australian author and co-founder of the literary journal Kill Your Darlings. Burial Rites is her first novel. Kent will appear at Boswell Book Co. at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26.


Book Happening

Tyrone Williams

11 a.m., Sept. 29

Woodland Pattern Book Center

720 E. Locust St.

With the rise of environmentalism came a new movement in poetry: ecopoetics. This Sunday, poet Tyrone Williams will explore the genre in a reading and workshop at Woodland Pattern. “Ecopoetics came into use as a critical ‘correction’ to nature poetry,” Williams said. “[The genre] uses parataxis, disconnection and other rhetorical strategies to get around narrative which tends to place humans as the subject and nature as the object of knowledge.” The workshop will focus on the core issue of place and placelessness, featuring the work of Gilles Clément, Jonathan Skinner and Cecilia Vicuña, some of the most prominent voices in ecopoetry today. The workshop, “Occultations of Place and Placelessness,” will be followed by a 2 p.m. reading of Williams’ own works.


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