Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A note from two small islands

I've just returned from New Zealand. From two weeks in a small town called Invercargill to be exact. It's right at the very bottom of the South Island. And when you stand on the shore there's nothing between you and Antarctica except Stewart Island. And although Stewart Island looks small on the map, believe me, it's quite big.


Google Images


What I was doing there is a whole other post, but in the meantime there's this:

In a bookstore called Whitcoulls I found Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It was a list of Joan's Picks for the readers. (Joan, I salute your good taste.)



I also found it under general fiction on the shelves. With the cover turned outwards - always a good sign (and, no, it wasn't me; I didn't do it).



Burial Rites is the story of the final days of Agnes Magnusdottir, a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. What's interesting is that it's true. Agnes Magnusdottir was beheaded in Iceland in early 1830 for her part in the murder of two men. This fact has been woven into fiction by Kent. Most times we read a book not knowing what's going to happen;  here we have a book where we know what's going to happen and yet, in my case, I was compelled to keep reading. (Observation: as readers we currently seem to have an obsession with true-life.) On Kent's website the novel is described as having been written in beautiful, cut-glass prose, and I have to agree with this, especially the cut-glass bit. There is something sharp and clinical about Kent's writing, and not only in the descriptions of the desolate and icy landscape. 

Hannah Kent is an Australian writer. She's a very young Australian, and the book is a very good book.

I don't need to tell you that I was very happy to see one of our (virtually unknown) writers on the shelves of a bookshop in a small town in another country.