“I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink.”
If you are looking for a fast paced, action packed, sinister novel - this book is NOT for you.
This is a novel about a woman sentenced to die. Her days are recollected and described in painful agony of everyday tasks as she waits to be slaughtered.
“There are times when I wonder whether I’m not already dead. This is no life; waiting in darkness, in silence, in a room so squalid I have forgotten the smell of fresh air."
It is blunt. Unforgiving. And as depressing as it is moving. And I cannot recommend it enough!
Hannah Kent does not shy away from details - details of stench of an imprisoned body, rolls of fearful sweat down somebody's back, sound of urine when it's passed in the middle of the night into an iron pot, a rustle of skirts that have been lifted against one's will.
All of these details create an unbelievably atmospheric novel. You can almost feel the cold of Icelandic moors, can hear the crunch of snow and ice, can smell the stuffed air of dirty houses and can almost hear the wails of hungry children.
“They see I’ve got a head on my shoulders, and believe a thinking woman cannot be trusted.”
This novel has so many messages that I believe not only help us to learn and understand about the past, but are still very much prevalent in our present. I am actually very surprised that this book is not talked about more - I got some very nice feminism vibes from it. I am not labeling this as a feminist book, no, but the vibe is definitely there, lurking just beneath the surface.
“No matter if you tried to do what was best. No matter if your innermost self whispers, ‘I am not as you say!’—how other people think of you determines who you are.”
It is 1900 in cold and isolated area of Iceland. Surviving is hard, but surviving as a woman is even harder.
If a woman is not wed by the age of 20 she is disposed in the eyes of a society as unwanted, faulty and too old.
If a woman is forced to give herself to a man who overpowers her she is viewed as too loose in the skirts.
If a woman is intelligent and knows how to read she is labeled as a witch.
“They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt."
I have been very lucky in my August reads, as every novel seemed to leave a piece of it deep in my soul. Agnes will definitely be staying with me for a long time. Once you read her story, it is not easy to shake, impossible to forget. Agnes's story is a sad tale of an orphan who was never truly loved or wanted. She was never given a fair chance in life, but she grasped at all of the chances she could get. It is impossible not to be gripped by her, impossible not to sympathize with her and impossible to stay idle as her story unravels.
I've only got one complaint with this book - I honestly wish there was more of it. I didn't want it to end, because I knew what was coming. I felt like I didn't get enough time with Agnes, I didn't want to let her go.
I've also felt unfinished. Like something in me wasn't quenched after I turned the last page. I wanted more of a resolution. I wanted more of people's reactions and actions.
The blurb also claims the novel to be a telling of the last execution in Iceland - I wanted to know why it was the last one. How it came to a stop? I've had many questions and I was sad not to see them answered.
If only Agnes had more time...
“I've been half-frozen for so long, it is as though the winter has set up home in my marrow.”