Devotion

Hannah Kent

 
Devotion
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Devotion

Hannah Kent

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.

This long-awaited novel demonstrates Hannah Kent’s sublime ability with language that creates an immersive, transformative experience for the reader. Devotion is a book to savour.

Review

Prussia, 1836: a small village of Old Lutherans is forced to practice their religion in secret or face persecution. Deliverance comes with the opportunity for settling in the new colony of South Australia, where they can practice without fear.

One member of this village is Hanne, a strong-willed 15-year-old girl who is more comfortable exploring the wilderness around her home than tending to the domestic world where she is expected to conform to the social norms for women at this time. Hanne is an outsider in her conservative village and struggles to create bonds of friendship with any of the local girls. This changes when Thea moves to the village. Finally, Hanne has met a kindred spirit. Their bond only grows stronger on the devastating journey from Europe to South Australia – a bond that proves impossible to break.

The story is told in three parts: Before, which takes place in Prussia; After, which occurs on the sea voyage; and Now, which takes place in South Australia. Like Hannah Kent’s previous novels, this one draws on historical archives; the persecution, voyage and settlement of the Old Lutherans are historically accurate, and Kent herself is descended from German- speaking immigrants who came to South Australia in the mid-19th century. The completely original aspect of this tale is the story of Hanne and Thea. Theirs is a story of love and a celebration of friendship. It is also a story with an unbelievable (and unbelievably thrilling) twist that I am loath to reveal here.

Devotion cements Kent’s status as one of the most exciting Australian writers working today (she is certainly already a staff favourite here at Readings). I have eagerly devoured everything she has ever written and am already waiting in eager anticipation for what comes next. A true must-read.


Tristen Brudy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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