They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from the men, and now they must steal mine.” Those are the first lines of Hannah Kent’s novel, Burial Rites, which tells the story of the last public execution to take place in Iceland. A man and woman are sentenced to death for committing murder. The women, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, was held for a winter at a farm, awaiting her death by beheading in the spring of 1829 (Agnes wasn’t beheaded until January of 1830). The novel takes place during that winter.

This is a very famous case in Iceland. You can even see the axe from Agnes’s execution in the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík. There’s even a documentary about Hannah’s time in Iceland that was broadcast on ABC in Australia and you can watch it below.