The story haunts me.! The Ritual Rites is based on the real story of the execution of a woman and a man, accused of murder, in Iceland. Their execution was the last public execution in Iceland around 1892. At that time, there was no prison in Iceland, so the murderess, Agnes, was held for a winter in a farm, under the guardian of a farmer, his wife and two daughter, before she was executed. In the story, Kent gives us a fictional account of the life and inner struggle of Agnes during that winter. As a psychoanalyst, Kent not only projects-what she thinks are true- the real motives behind the murder, but also how people connect emotionally. She shows how in that remote village, the farmer’s family swallows the villagers’ looks and whispers about them and the murderess they have at their home and how they eventually connect with her. And mostly she lets the reader goes inside the mind of Agnes herself. Kent’s bleak description of the landscape adds to the gloomy story of Agnes. The story’s language is also somber and one cannot help but feels s/he really witnessing the impending death of Agnes in every corner of her/his “mind.” Throughout the narrative, Kent switches the points of views from one character to another which allows the reader to fully experience the story.
Kent also does a thorough research on the subject. Honestly, this is the first time I read about this story or anything related to Iceland history. In her story, Kent does not distort the facts, all the details are true. Rather, she fills in the gaps. She writes the unsaid dialogues and projects the unknown feelings of the persons involved. The story is really beautiful and compelling.
The work stands as a feminist piece of work. Agnes, as the writer explains, was seen as a witch and a female monster-figure. Thus in her work, Kent strives to reveal, what she believes is, the real Agnes. She does not idolize Agnes, but she presents her as a “Human.” This part of the book is what I loved most. Not that I’m a feminist, no.! But I loved the way she presents the “human” in Agnes and the other characters. This part of us, which we miss..which most people lost .!
This is Kent’s first novel, who 28 years old..just like me.!. And as a first novel ,I really find it a great work of art. She opens a door for me to search more about the history of Iceland and also their literature.
Bottom line: I recommend this novel for everyone.!