BOOK REVIEW: Devotion by Hannah Kent

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Prussia, 1836. Hanne is nearly fifteen and the domestic world of womanhood is quickly closing in on her. A child of nature, she yearns instead for the rush of the river, the wind dancing around her. Hanne finds little comfort in the local girls and friendship doesn't come easily, until she meets Thea and she finds in her a kindred spirit and finally, acceptance.

Hanne's family are Old Lutherans, and in her small village hushed worship is done secretly - this is a community under threat. But when they are granted safe passage to Australia, the community rejoices: at last a place they can pray without fear, a permanent home. Freedom.

It's a promise of freedom that will have devastating consequences for Hanne and Thea, but, on that long and brutal journey, their bond proves too strong for even nature to break...

My Thoughts:

‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent is so beautiful, so compelling, so filled with awe and joy and grief at the terrible beauty of life, it’s humbling. It’s leapt into my list of ‘Best Books of All Time’ which is a very select list indeed. 

It’s a story of two young women, both outsiders in some way in their strict German Lutheran village, who find each other, first as soul sisters and kindred spirits, and then – slowly and delicately – as lovers. The book begins when they are fifteen, and their community is suffering religious persecution as Prussia’s king determined to unify the state religion under his lead. Hanne lives with her parents and twin brother in a small village whose church is chained and locked, their pastor fled. Hanne is an odd girl, unlike the other girls. She has a strong connection to nature, and can hear its song. Her parents try to keep her in check, but there’s a wildness in her that resists all attempts to bridle her. One day a new family comes to live in the village. They have a daughter named Thea. Hanne is drawn irrestistibly to her. Like Hanne, she does not fit in – her mother is a midwife and, it is rumoured, a witch. The two become the dearest of friends.

The Old Lutherans (as they are known) decide to emigrate to Australia so they are free to worship as they please. Hanne fears being separated from Thea, but the two manage to make sure they will travel together. Once on board the ship, though, tragedy strikes as typhus claws its way through the overcrowded accommodaton. 

To say anymore is to diminish the pleasure of discovering this exquisitely constructed and composed novel. I could not put it down, and I did not want to leave it. It’s a book I will keep forever, and read again and again and again, for the luminous purity of its language and the bittersweet beauty of its story. Beyond wonderful.

Get your copy of Devotion HERE
Kate Forsyth
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