Burial Rites

Mysterious Book Report No. 126

John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s book review is a debut novel by an Australian author of great talent and outstanding promise; an author we’ll be paying attention to for a long, long time.  Her novel is titled Burial Rites (Little Brown, $26.00, 322 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-24391-9) and the author’s name is Hannah Kent.  She’s a graduate student who’s finishing her PhD at FlindersUniversity in Adelaide, South Australia, and she’s written one of the most meticulously well-researched and beautiful works of historical fiction I have read in quite some time.  It takes place in 1829 on a remote farm in northern Iceland and tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman convicted of murdering two men and burning their bodies in order to conceal the crime.  As her case slowly works its way through the judicial bureaucracy; in order to save money . . . and because they have no proper confinement facilities . . . the District Commissioner directs that Agnes be housed at the farm of another local official, District Officer Jon Jonsson.  His wife Margrit is horrified, and afraid for herself, her two daughters and their servants and farmhands.  She’s also worried, about their family’s reputation.  What will the neighbor think of them, associating with a convicted criminal—and a murderer at that.  Shunned, demeaned and abused at first, Agnes begins gaining the respect of the other women through her hard work and knowledge of healing and herbal medicine.  As her story unfolds, Agnes is revealed as a complex, multi-dimensional character who might be deserving of another life.  It is a dark and tragic tale of a tragic life, in a stark, cold land that’s brought to life through the talent of Hannah Kent.  The reader will feel the cold and hunger, smell and see the closed in gloomy winter, while seeing the lush summer grasses come to life and watching the farm prosper or fail as the intricate relationships of the characters are revealed.  The beautiful prose and complex story are artfully blended together by a talented and gifted writer and storyteller.  Hannah Kent has made history come to life in her auspicious debut.  Don’t miss this one.  It’s a literary gem!

You’ll find many more of the gems of literature at your local library.  They’re all waiting there for you . . . all for free. But you have to go, and hook up with a librarian who will assist you in every possible way.  Make it a New Year’s resolution to get a free library card and become a regular visitor.  All you can do is lose your ignorance . . .

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Just a reminder . . . books are GREAT HOLIDAY GIFTS!  You can order author signed copies at  Rhyolite Press LLC, P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO  80901, for $15.00 plus $4.00 shipping and handling of The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, and our latest and greatest:  Colorado Noir, is $16.95 plus shipping for a walk on the dark and seamy side of one of the most controversial cities in America via the award-winning pen of John Dwaine McKenna, author of The Neversink Chronicles and The Whim-Wham Man.  In Colorado Noir you’ll ride along with a homeless, autistic woman named Elaine, as she tries to pick her living from the garbage in The Aluminum Mistress . . . Hang out with Yazzie and Darrell Lee as they learn to live rough, surviving by petty theft until one of them commits a capital crime in The Ghosts of Christmas Present . . . Find merry mischief and pathos aplenty in Mosby’s Retreat, where you’ll meet a four-footed usher of death . . . Experience utter terror at 30,000 feet on a B-17 flying abattoir in The Rising, an unforgettable WWII story . . . And treat yourself to the second Jake McKern novella in A Mischief of Rats, as you countdown to a crime spree and shootout that will leave the reader gasping and blood running in the streets of Colorado Springs.  All these, plus six more of the best noir stories in town.  If you love crime fiction and mystery, don’t you DARE miss Colorado Noir!  Available at Amazon, Kindle eBooks, Barnes & Noble and bookstores everywhere, as well as the publisher, Rhyolite Press.



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