Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
The quality and variety of fiction streaming out of Australia are astonishing. Over the past month I’ve been captivated by three very different books from Down Under: Mark Dapin’s haunted Spirit House , in which a group of Jewish second World War veterans resident in Bondi try to come to terms with their bizarre, traumatic experiences on the Thai-Burma railway; Lesley Jorgensen’s warmhearted, Downton-Abbey-with-Bangladeshis comedy, Cat and Fiddle ; and, most recently, Hannah Kent’s historical debut, Burial Rites . Set in Iceland in 1829, it tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, who is condemned to death for killing her lover. The novel works on several levels, evoking a chilly northern landscape with painterly skill and peopling it with memorable characters – not least Agnes herself and the young priest charged with preparing her for death – even as it examines the viability of such no tions as compassion, justice and absolute truth. Good on ya, Aussies. Keep ’em coming.