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As I am myself a foreigner inspired to write about Iceland, I was clearly going to read this Australian’s debut novel. I am so glad I heard about it.

It’s based on a true story of the last person to get sentenced to death in Iceland back in the early nineteenth century. Obviously a bleak story, and Hannah Kent paints a suitably bleak landscape reminiscent of Halldór Laxness’ Independent People. If you’ve ever struggled to read Laxness’ book doing let that comparison put you off because there the similarities end.

Kent paints a picture of rural Icelandic life brilliantly, and through Agnes’ conversations with the priest who visits her and the family she’s posted with you learn what actually happened in the ran up to the event that saw her convicted of murder.