There’s nothing more thrilling than having someone say “Oh you have got to read this”. Especially when it comes from someone whose taste you admire. So when you hear it more than once, it’s well nigh impossible not to nosedive into Amazon and start pressing buttons.
This début from Australian writer Hannah Kent is almost as well hyped as “The Miniaturist”, and has scooped up an armful of awards’ nominations, including being shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys’ prize. And with good cause, in my book. Very much in the same vein as the brilliant Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”, it takes up the arms of a true story and accompanies you through a slice of one woman’s uncomfortable and very plausible life in very unusual circumstances. Did she / didn’t she commit the heinous crime of which she is accused and for which she will be condemned ? (Now THAT reminded me of the equally wondrous “My Cousin Rachel”, really love it when one work of literature calls to life another).
There are no surprises, because as with all the true heroes of history, what happens in the final chapter is not under discussion. But believe me, nothing is lost by being taken under the author’s wing, and accompanying Agnes for those faltering final steps along the way.
“ ‘To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things’ ”.
Highly enjoyable, very well written and feels genuinely evocative of the period (Iceland in 1829, a formidable landscape indeed).
Read in Summer 2014.