The Hunger Games duo Jennifer Lawrence and Gary Ross are teaming up once again to adapt Hannah Kent’s Icelandic drama Burial Rites.
Burial Rites is historically based on Agnes Magnusdottir, the last criminal to be publicly executed in Iceland. Agnes was convicted of killing her employer, possibly lover, and a friend, along with two others. One of the convicts was executed alongside Agnes and the other was exiled. Agnes has been sent to live with a family on a farm until her execution.
From the onset of the novel, we know this is a true story and what the outcome will be. Even so, Kent’s well-researched storytelling is extremely engaging. The novel alternates between Agnes’s first point-of-view and the other characters’ third person narration, giving us enough to sustain the mystery of the story and how it all unfolds. There is, however, no humor in the book. It is dark and atmospheric, with a sense of doom all around the convicted woman in the harsh Icelandic winter. The book is beautifully crafted and evocative, leaving your heart in extreme turmoil. We don’t really know whether Agnes committed the crimes or not and the book is not asking for sympathy, but we end up with an empathetic view of Agnes, wondering whether history misrepresented her.
This is a novel that can be adapted perfectly on the screen and knowing Jennifer Lawrence’s talent, from Silver Linings Playbook to American Hustle, I can be sure that, even though she’s not in her thirties, she will do Agnes complete justice.
The book was shortlisted for Guardian First Book Award and is also nominated for Women’s Prize for Fiction.
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