Book Review: Devotion by Hannah Kent

About the Book:

Prussia, 1836

Hanne Nussbaum is a child of nature – she would rather run wild in the forest than conform to the limitations of womanhood. In her village of Kay, Hanne is friendless and considered an oddity . . . until she meets Thea.

Ocean, 1838

The Nussbaums are Old Lutherans, bound by God’s law and at odds with their King’s order for reform. Forced to flee religious persecution the families of Kay board a crowded, disease-riddled ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. In the face of brutal hardship, the beauty of whale song enters Hanne’s heart, along with the miracle of her love for Thea. Theirs is a bond that nothing can break.

The whale passed. The music faded.

South Australia, 1838

A new start in an old land. God, society and nature itself decree Hanne and Thea cannot be together. But within the impossible . . . is devotion.

Published by Pan Macmillan Australia – Picador Australia

Released 26th October 2021

My Thoughts:

It was such a long-awaited joy to return to the writing of Hannah Kent, whose previous two novels, Burial Rights and The Good People, are both firm favourites of mine. I love the way she writes, the way she plays with language, the way she conjures such visual imagery with her words. And there is some truly beautiful writing within her latest release, Devotion. Once again, she returns to the genre of historical fiction, and I was lost within the passages of time inside the world she has created, following a large group of Old Lutherans journey from one side of the world to the other. The journey on the ship was such an immersion into history, I really enjoyed that part of the novel, the hardships endured, all in the name of a new life free from religious persecution.

There is a supernatural element to this novel that marks it as different to her others. I am not opposed to supernatural threads woven into a story and at times I didn’t mind this one, but at others, I felt it pulling me out of the story. There were times when I just couldn’t envisage what the author was describing and others where I felt it was all just wandering too far from the bones of the story – or at least, what I felt were the bones, which I acknowledge may be different to the author’s intent.

One thing that is very much evident though is that this story just pulses with love. I feel like it has been written by someone who has experienced the sort of devotion that the novel is based upon, and that is a very grand thing to be able to express. At its heart, this novel represents love in its highest form, pure and transcending. It’s very raw and at times, heartbreaking, but also illuminating. I’ll be honest, this is not my favourite by Hannah Kent, but any fan of hers will be glad to revisit her writing in this latest offering and I think that each reader’s response will be an entirely individualised one.

‘If others are here, as I am, we are as unseen to one another as the living. The lonely dead, wishing for ghosts of our own.’


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Devotion by Hannah Kent

  1. The supernatural element makes me feel a little nervous however, after hearing her speak last week, I feel happy that this is a book about love and friendship (rather than murder!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure I have the right words to give this book a fair assessment. I don’t frequently cry while reading a book, but this… This was so heartbreakingly lovely. It had me spellbound. Hannah Kent writes in a poetic style that almost resembles poetry. I simply lack the words to describe how visceral and emotionally charged it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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