Tuesday Top Ten

historical fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten books in a specific genre.  I chose historical fiction since it’s a genre that I never thought I really liked until it quickly became one of my favorites over the past couple of years.

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The most touching book I have ever read, it takes place during WWII in Germany and provides unique perspective and an even more unique narrator.
  2. The Son by Philipp Meyer – The history of Texas, from 1836 through the present day, from the attack of Native Americans through the rollercoaster of the oil industry.
  3. Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies – From early-1800s New York City to the farms of upstate NY to San Francisco during the Gold Rush this is the story of a woman and her life.
  4. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – A coming of age story in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
  5. Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The story of two women, two friends, a pilot and a spy, during WWII.
  6. Brewster by Mark Slouka – A beautifully written story of friends growing up in upstate New York in 1968.
  7. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – The last public beheading to take place in Iceland in the early 1800s.  A devastatingly beautiful story.
  8. A Good American by Alex George – The story of immigrants to America in 1904 and their lives, and the lives of their descendants, as told by their grandson.
  9. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Ursula’s story allows you to travel through various scenarios throughout the early to mid-1900s as she is born and dies again and again.
  10. Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – Epic in scope, from the mid-1700s through most of the 1800s, this story also travels the globe, from England and American and Amsterdam to Tahiti and the jungles of the world.

Burial Rites

burial ritesBased on the true story of the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a woman accused of joining forces with another maid and a neighboring man to murder her former employer and his companion.  Since there are no prisons nearby in rural Iceland, Agnes is sent to live with a local family while awaiting her execution.  There she will also meet with Tóti, the priest she has inexplicably chosen to be her spiritual adviser.  Initially the family is terrified to have her in their home and Tóti is confused and overwhelmed by her request.  But slowly, as they begin to know her and her story unfolds, their feelings towards Agnes and her plight change.  But will it really matter?  Will it matter to Agnes even if it does not change her fate?

Devastating.  Heart-wrenching.  Brutal.  This is a story that will stick with me for a long time.  I read a lot of books, and I enjoy nearly all of them, but few have had the power to bring me to tears – this one did.  Set against the harsh landscape and life of rural Iceland, this story is heartbreaking.  Yet I found myself quickly turning pages, wanting to know the truth of that night, the night those men were bludgeoned, stabbed, and set ablaze – and wanting to know Agnes’s fate even though I already knew what it would be.  In the end, the way of life, Agnes’s life, and ultimately her death, are brutal.  However, more than the brutality I will remember the fear and the love and the yearning in this woman – the yearning to be loved, to be wanted, to be understood, to find a home, to live.

Title: Burial Rites
Author: Hannah Kent
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 336
Publication:  Little, Brown and Company, September 2013