I’m a sort of reader who doesn’t like to give up on books easily, but this latest book club read, an acclaimed debut novel from a Serbian-born Australian writer, really tested my patience for a good hundred pages before I finally started to find it somewhat rewarding.
I’ve read this book in a bizarre pattern – read the first 50 pages, got distracted and put the book away, decided to start over, re-read the same 50 pages, got distracted again for a shorter period, picked up the book where I left it, then finished the whole thing in a day while staying at home with a cold. It started off in an intriguing enough fashion, but at one point it becomes such an emotional rollercoaster it was simply impossible to put down. It’s not without faults, but it’s a powerful read about love, family and good people making bad decisions.
I was very eager to check this book out. It got a lot of attention and praise, and the premise seemed interesting: it’s based on the real-life story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. She was beheaded in 1830 for her part in the gruesome murders of two men, one of them her employer, and the attempted cover-up by arson. Before the execution, she spent her last months at the rural home of Jon Jonsson, a middle-ranking official, and his family, a wife and two daughters. Iceland is a place that has always fascinated me, and I can’t say I’ve read many stories with it as a setting, so that made this book even more intriguing. Did it live up to the hype? Not really. I found it solid reading, but not that special, at least not consistently so.