by Hannah Kent
I both loved and hated this book. It took me over a year to read it. Granted, I was listening to it on audiobook and I am a lot slower with them than I am with regular books, but still, it took a long time to get through. It was one of those books that was really, really easy to stop reading and difficult to pick it back up again.Summary: Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.
What I loved: It was a really, really beautiful book. The writing was wonderful and so atmospheric. The way Hannah Kent wrote the setting turned Iceland into almost a character itself. And the actual characters? They were very real and complex and I loved that.
I found the story of Agnes really interesting, and the book made me care about her. Made me frustrated by her and angry on her behalf, but mostly just really sad for her. She was written so convincingly that sometimes I forgot I was reading a fictionalised version of a real woman, rather than a book about the real Agnes.
My problem with the book was that it was very, very, very slow.
Nothing much actually happens in the book until near the end. It's very much a character driven story. We go into it knowing how it's going to end, and it's just this slow build up to that, and we learn the Why of it all at a snails pace, little details of Agnes's life before her arrest dripping into the story, taking forever to get to the part we (or I) actually wanted to know about: the night of the murders, the reason they happened at all.
As for the format...it took me a really long time to listen to it on audio, but I'd still recommend it. The narration was fantastic (and, if you're like me and stumble over pronunciation of Icelandic words and names, it really helped hearing them said out loud by the narrator rather than trying to figure them out on my own).
Basically, the book was beautiful in so many ways and really interesting (the real story of Agnes is fascinating and haunting), and if you're the type of person who loves character driven stories then this is definitely one worth picking up, but if you like your stories fast paced and plot-driven, it might not be for you. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.