Northern Iceland, 1829, a servant woman is sentenced to death for the murder of her employer. In 1830 she will be the last person executed in Iceland. A stark tale set against the matching backdrop of the bleakly hostile Icelandic Winter, Burial Rites is based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir. In a world too sparse for prisons, Agnes is sent to the farm of a district official to await execution. Forced into close confines with a family that loathes and fears her, Agnes’s only freedom is her choice of spiritual counsel. He is the only help that she will have to reconcile herself with her imminent death. A meticulously researched gem, each chapter begins with translated original documents pertaining to the case. With its beautiful prose, historical accuracy and cultural complexity, this is a book that any reader will savour.
Words by Joelene Pynnonen