Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

First published 2013 by Picador.

burial rites

We humans are so fascinated with murder and murderers. Some of us devour every jot and tittle written by salivating journalists of real murder cases; others love their crime shows, be it Underbelly or NCIS or The Doctor Blake Mysteries. The masses buy the Chopper Read books, but even people who consider themselves higher minded than that are drawn to things like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or whatever Helen Garner has spent years researching. Some of us think that life is so tough we only wish for light reading, and sit up late with Hamish Macbeth or Miss Fisher or some old Agatha Christie mystery. As someone sagely put it, “happiness does not sell books; murders do”.

Based on true events, Burial Rites is about a woman convicted for her role in the murder of two men; awhile ago my stepson was put away for the murder of two women. In the year and a bit since this happened I’ve pondered the subject a lot, and have passed very few days in which I did not think about it, and I think I’ve come up with an answer to why we are so interested in it. What we want to know, in a nutshell is, “what drives people to murder?” and “am I capable of doing the same if I were in their shoes?” Sub-questions I imagine Hannah Kent to have asked are “what drives a woman to murder?” and “what drives a woman to two murders?”

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