I always want to keep talking after I’ve read a great book, don’t you? That’s how I feel about Burial Rites. So in a special Book Review Bonus, here are some of quotes and other random things I liked about the book:
Agnes, says to herself, on being called a murderer:
“I want to shake my head. That word does not belong to me, I want to say. It doesn’t fit me or who I am. It’s another word and it belongs to another person.”
On her first time being free and alone, if only for a moment, Agnes thinks:
“In this minute I can do anything…and no one will know.”
On ravens and understanding them:
I like how Kent uses ravens to predict good and bad fortune. They are everywhere in the story. Here are a few examples:
When Margrét and Tóti see the birds, Margrét asks him, “Do you know the right name for a flock of ravens? A conspiracy, Reverend. A conspiracy.”
And Tóti answers, “Is that so, Mistress Margrét? I thought they were called an unkindness.”
Later they are seen “flying in a line. A good omen.” Common knowledge to Icelanders.
And when Agnes’ mother gives her a stone, she tells her, “It is a magic stone. Put it under your tongue and you will be able to talk to the birds.”
Agnes thinks back on that day, “Perhaps she looked out to the valley, into the mist and stillness, and wondered what she could give me. A lie for a father. A head of dark hair. A hayrack to sleep in. A kiss. A stone, so that I might learn to understand the birds and never be lonely.”
I also like how Kent uses dreams to drive the story. In this example, Agnes dreams of being on the execution block,
“It began to snow and I thought to myself: ‘this is the silence before the drop.’”
Tóti says he doesn’t believe in fate. He tells Agnes, “We author our own fates.” Agnes isn’t sure.
On being smart:
Agnes thinks the reason no one takes pity on her is because she is smart.
“But they see I’ve got a head on my shoulders, and believe a thinking woman cannot be trusted. Believe there’s no room for innocence.”
On there being a heaven:
Natan does not believe. “It is a lie,” he tells Agnes. “Man has created God out of fear of dying.” “This is all there is and you know it.”
And my favorite, on the space between stars:
When Natan asks Agnes what the name is for the space between stars, she calls it the “soul asylum.” Did anyone else pick up on this reference to the American 1980s alternative rock band from Minneapolis or the 1989 song by The Cult? Did that phrase exist before 80s music? I can’t find any earlier references, so I think the author is just having some fun. Nice!
When an author can write a gripping story and incorporate all these great themes and details, that’s a great book. And there you have the reason why I’m still talking!
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