Colonial Iceland 1828: the Jonsonn family must house convicted murderess Agnes as she waits to be publicly beheaded. Told partly in the third person and partly in Agnes's words, this novel is a moving evocation of rural poverty where ancient traditions vie with a powerful Church, whilst Denmark watches everything. I was saved from complete despair by the effect Agnes has on the Jonsonns.
This waiting makes me want to be sick. Why not now? Why not pick up the axe and do the deed here, on the farm? Bjarni could do it. Or Gudmundur. Any of the men. God knows they'd probably like to push my face in the snow and take my head off without ceremony, without priest or judge. If they're going to kill me, why not kill me now and be done with it?