A novel that can be summarised in a single, captivating sentence is a publisher’s dream. Not that ease of marketing is a reliable measure of excellence. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927), for instance – which could be described as ‘the story of a mother who dies before taking her son to visit a lighthouse, and later a woman completes a painting’ – achieved classic status despite an unpropitious précis. Woolf’s genius aside, it is difficult to imagine a sentence like that sparking an international bidding war of the kind that erupted last year over Hannah Kent’s first novel. Burial Rites – ‘the story of the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland’ – reportedly netted Kent a considerable advance.
Bronwyn Lea reviews 'Burial Rites' by Hannah Kent
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Bronwyn Lea was born in Tasmania and grew up in Queensland and Papua New Guinea. She is the author of Flight Animals (UQP, 2001), winner of the Wesley Michel Wright Prize and the FAW Anne Elder Award, and The Other Way Out (Giramondo, 2008), which won the WA Premier’s Book Award for Poetry and the SA Premier’s John Bray Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection is The Deep North: Selected poems (George Braziller, 2013). She teaches creative writing at the University of Queensland and is poetry editor for Meanjin.
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