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Devotion

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1836, Prussia. 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 fam 1836, Prussia. 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 . . .


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1836, Prussia. 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 fam 1836, Prussia. 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 . . .

30 review for Devotion

  1. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    Devotion opens in a village in Prussia in 1883, where fellow members of the Old Lutheran church have collected together in order to worship secretly in a country where their religion has been banned. When they are given the opportunity to emigrate to Australia many of the families pack their meagre possessions and leave. The ship they board is heavily overloaded and the cramped conditions in which they spend the next six months are described perfectly. The author has researched an actual voyage a Devotion opens in a village in Prussia in 1883, where fellow members of the Old Lutheran church have collected together in order to worship secretly in a country where their religion has been banned. When they are given the opportunity to emigrate to Australia many of the families pack their meagre possessions and leave. The ship they board is heavily overloaded and the cramped conditions in which they spend the next six months are described perfectly. The author has researched an actual voyage and delivers real facts in her usual beautiful prose. This section of the book is fascinating. The story follows teenage Hanne and her close friend Thea and revolves around their relationship and love. During the course of the voyage they manage to spend a lot of time together but it is apparent even to them that their love does not have a future in their world. I began to wonder how the author was going to deal with this but she makes a very bold move which I did not see coming. At this point the whole tone of the book changes and it will depend on each reader's personal preferences whether they enjoy it or not. Suffice it to say that there is a satisfying conclusion to this intriguing and memorable story My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    I’m not sure I have the words to properly review this book. It’s not often I am brought to tears by a book but this… this was so achingly beautiful. It was mesmerising. Hannah Kent’s writing is so lyrical it is almost poetry. It is visceral and full of feeling and - I just don’t have the words. Hanne (Johanne Nussbaum) is an almost 15 year old girl on the cusp of womanhood in a ‘old’ Lutheran community in 1836 in Prussia. The king has outlawed ‘old’ Lutheranism in an attempt to standardise the Pr I’m not sure I have the words to properly review this book. It’s not often I am brought to tears by a book but this… this was so achingly beautiful. It was mesmerising. Hannah Kent’s writing is so lyrical it is almost poetry. It is visceral and full of feeling and - I just don’t have the words. Hanne (Johanne Nussbaum) is an almost 15 year old girl on the cusp of womanhood in a ‘old’ Lutheran community in 1836 in Prussia. The king has outlawed ‘old’ Lutheranism in an attempt to standardise the Protestant religions. A few of the communities are hoping to leave for the new world so they can worship as they wish and in peace. But Hanne is a child of nature, she has ways of seeing things and hearing the trees speak that is considered a little strange. She no real friends until she meets a kindred spirit Thea (Dorothea Eichenwald) from a family of newcomers and learns what it is to love. The two girls become inseparable. Soon enough permission is granted for the villagers to leave Prussia and transport is arranged on a ship to South Australia. The journey is to take 6 months and it is a trial of endurance. The cramped quarters, the lack of ventilation, the smells of the night soil buckets, the smells of unwashed bodies, the smells of vomit from seasickness and the poor food all take their toll on the pilgrims and not all of them survive the voyage. Yet when Hanne is on the deck, the ship a lone speck in a vast ocean of blue, the wind in her hair, the breaching of whales and the whale song, the majesty of an albatross in flight she is at peace with the world and hears its songs. The arrival in South Australia is also not quite what the pilgrims expected but one thing they are used to is hard work and they soon set about taming the land. Hanne finds a more vibrant song within the folds of this most ancient of lands and she revels in it. But, but there is tragedy too. There’s not much more I want to say. It was a slow and quiet book that just oozed beauty. The settlement is based on the real life settlement of Hahndorf in the Barossa Valley by German people. And the voyage is based on a real voyage. I had previously read Kent’s book Burial Rites which was also totally amazing. She weaves a spell binding story with very real characters into a historical fiction book based on real events. And she does this in a totally awesome way. My only comment would be that I thought it was a little bit long in the second half so I am giving it 4.5 stars rounded down. Many thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan Australia for the much appreciated arc which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Fifteen year old Hanne lives with her parents and brother Matthias in a small village in Prussia in 1836. Their old Lutheran religion has been banned by the King in an attempt to unify the protestant churches, but they continue to worship in secret. Hanne is a girl who loves nothing better than being surrounded by nature, a plain looking girl with no real friends, she has trouble looking forward to the future of marriage and children that her community expects of all its young girls. However, wh Fifteen year old Hanne lives with her parents and brother Matthias in a small village in Prussia in 1836. Their old Lutheran religion has been banned by the King in an attempt to unify the protestant churches, but they continue to worship in secret. Hanne is a girl who loves nothing better than being surrounded by nature, a plain looking girl with no real friends, she has trouble looking forward to the future of marriage and children that her community expects of all its young girls. However, when a new family moves to the village, Hanne is immediately drawn to their daughter Thea and a deep friendship and love develops between them. In 1838, the Lutherans are given permission to emigrate to South Australia where they will be free to worship as they please. They embark on the long journey to Hamburg where they board a ship to take them to their new home. Their journey on board the Kristi is based on the real voyage of the Zebra (under the command of Captain Hahn who helped them buy land in the Barossa and for whom Hahndorf was named). With 199 people on board the ship and only 80 berths, the ship was horribly overcrowded and soon typhus became rampant, killing some on board. It’s at this point in the novel that the story takes an unexpected turn that will affect both Hanne and Thea’s future in the new colony. I really enjoy historical fiction based on real events, especially when I learn something new and especially when the author has done their research as meticulously as Hannah Kent. Her descriptions of the hardships these people took in their journey are vividly recreated with a real sense of time and place, from the suppression of their religion in Prussia to their six-month nightmare journey in a cramped, airless ship to their indomitable spirit in building a new life from the ground up in a strange country on the other side of the world. Kent’s writing is always beautiful with a poetic feel to it, particularly when she is describing the natural world that Hanne connects with so readily. Hanne’s love for Thea is at the heart of the novel, but also her love for her family and her community. Overall, a powerful and moving novel that will continue to resonate with me for some time. 4.5★ With many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia and Netgalley for a copy to read

  4. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4★ “Why do men bother with churches at all when instead they might make cathedrals out of sky and water? Better a chorus of birds than a choir. Better an altar of leaves. Baptise me in rainfall and crown me with sunrise. If I am still, somehow, God’s child, let me find grace in the mysteries of bat-shriek and honeycomb.” Hanne is a teenaged girl from a devout Lutheran family in 19th century Prussia. Her father is a fairly strict elder, her mother is beautiful and loving, but she’s undemonstrative 4★ “Why do men bother with churches at all when instead they might make cathedrals out of sky and water? Better a chorus of birds than a choir. Better an altar of leaves. Baptise me in rainfall and crown me with sunrise. If I am still, somehow, God’s child, let me find grace in the mysteries of bat-shriek and honeycomb.” Hanne is a teenaged girl from a devout Lutheran family in 19th century Prussia. Her father is a fairly strict elder, her mother is beautiful and loving, but she’s undemonstrative – not a cuddly, hugging sort of mother. Hanne is tall and coltish, with long legs that occasionally stumble. “Here she is, the cuckoo born to a songbird. The odd, unbeautiful daughter.” Her twin brother, Matthias, is her closest friend and ally. They used to curl up together as babies and youngsters, but now that they’re in their teens, Matthias sleeps up in the loft, and Hanne is forbidden to join him, although she doesn’t really understand why. They have been a part of each other for so long, that she feels the loss badly. She doesn’t seem to fret that she has no girlfriends because she has always had Matthias, but now she relies more than ever on the companionship of her beloved forest with all of its sounds and music. She hears the melody and hums and whispers of life everywhere. Her mother does understand this and sometimes sends her to pick mushrooms, knowing that it is a happy respite for Hanne from women’s work at home. “I was forever nature’s child. It is probably best to say this now. I sought out solitude. Happiness was playing in the whir of grass at the uncultivated edges of our village, listening to the ticking of insects, or plunging my feet into fresh snow until my stockings grew wet and my toes numb.” A new family moves to the village from a different area. The mother is a Wend, from a Slavic community, and rumour has it she is a ‘Hexe’, a witch. But the father is German, and they have moved to the village to escape religious persecution just as the Lutherans did, so Hanne’s family is prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. Their daughter, Thea, is Hanne’s age, but Hanne isn’t interested in meeting more people. She prefers to be alone in the forest, listening to the magic there. “Suddenly I heard stick-break, the cracking of wood, and someone appeared out of the fog. She was an apparition walking between hazy columns of trees, her outline growing clearer as she walked. It seemed, for one small moment, that we were underwater. I saw her breath stream as she heaved a crooked weight of kindling; I saw her through the cloud of my own breath and held it, the better to see her. She looked up and, seeing me watching her, stopped. I exhaled. The air hung with water. Held its own breath as we regarded one another. The girl freed a hand from her bundle of sticks. I watched as she raised it, uncertain, then lifted my own palm. ‘I thought you were a ghost,’ she said. Her voice was low. Unsteady. ‘I thought you were too.’ ‘You scared me.’ She hoisted the bundle of kindling onto her hip and approached me through the fog. ‘I’m Thea.’ I remembered myself. ‘Hanne.’ The mist between us thinned as she drew closer. Her face was round, smooth-cheeked, and I saw that her hair was white-blonde, her eyebrows fairer than her skin. It looked, not unpleasantly, as though she had been dusted with flour. Against the silence of the forest, her footsteps upon the twigs and needles sounded impossibly loud. ‘You’re not, then?’ She continued walking until she was standing an arm’s length away. I could see that her eyelashes were translucent, surrounding eyes that were deeply blue. Fathomless blue, winter’s blue. ‘What?’ Water dripped from the tree above me and fell inside my collar. Trickled down my back. She smiled. ‘A ghost.’ I noticed then that, while her front teeth were small and neat, those next to them stuck out at an angle. It gave her a hungry, slightly wolfish look. ‘No. I don’t think so. Unless I died in my sleep.’ ‘Maybe both of us died in our sleep, and here we are, two ghosts. Telling each other we’re alive.’ I laughed. For a moment I wondered if there could be truth in what she said. The mist had thickened, and with her white hair it looked as though she might suddenly be absorbed into the cloud about us.” I liked the quick rapport between the two young outsiders, and they do become great friends. Hanne begins spending a lot of time with Thea’s family and comes to understand Thea’s mother’s special skills as a midwife and herbalist. When the villagers learn that they are no longer safe in this village, they arrange passage on a ship to create a new settlement in Australia. Hanne is stunned when they sail out of the rivers and into the vastness of the open sea. “The good Lord knows, if I could live any moment of my life over again, it would be that one. Ribs divided, heart devouring the knife-edge of beauty. To see the ocean for the first time, every time. Her hand in mine. Holy blade that guts us with awe.” The six-month voyage is horrific. Quarters are cramped, much of the food has gone off, and the water has spoiled. By the time they arrive, their numbers have dwindled due to typhus and other diseases, with bodies buried at sea or onshore, if they were near land. The girls were separated at the beginning of the trip, as Hanne had to bunk with her mother and baby sister in the family quarters, and Thea was put in the bow of the ship with the single women. Later. as sickness spread, Hanne was moved to the bow as well, and the two proclaimed their devotion to each other. The writing is exceptional. Here is one descriptions of how Hanne feels when she is at one with a tree or a plant. “One day I stood beside a banksia loud with honeyeaters and nectar. The music lifting from the tree was so joyful, I joined my voice to its singing, and as I sang, I thought of Thea. I yearned for her and I yearned to be absorbed by the banksia, and in the rising key of all the strains of growth, I felt the banksia admit me and we were together. We knew what it was to bud and blossom and eat the light. I felt the birds upon me like a visitation from God. That is how it happened.” The author has written the story around comprehensive research of the journey of these European settlers who were fleeing religious persecution, just as the English pilgrims sought freedom in America. The local Peramangk people are credited with saving these uninvited, ill-equipped foreigners from starving, although the immigrants later chased them away from the livestock and gardens they established on Peramangk land. I'm sure the fact that South Australia was settled by free settlers, not convicts as the other states were, wouldn't have made the local indigenous people any happier. But mainly, this is a love story, with passions running high and overshadowing everything else. These are girls in their teens. There is no question that it is praiseworthy for the writing alone, and I enjoyed the history. I did become impatient with Hanne’s continuous, overflowing of declarations of love. For me, this is a case of sometimes less is more. (I know, I know, this review is long, but almost half of it is Kent’s glorious prose!) I enjoyed her debut, Burial Rites, about an historic trial in Iceland, and her second book, The Good People, about Ireland and its dangerous wee folk. It was a nice change to see her turn her talent to where she grew up herself. Thanks to NetGalley and Pan McMillan Picador Australia for the copy for review. P.S. My review of Burial Rites: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... My review 0f The Good People: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    3.5★s Hanne Nussbaum loved nature more than she loved her fellow humans. Of course she loved her mother and father, her brother Matthias but she felt awkward around others, as if she wasn’t good enough for them. Hanne was never happier than when she was in the forest. Until she met Thea and had a friend at last. Thea’s parents had recently arrived to the Prussian village of Kay in 1836, and Thea’s mother was a healer. But when the whole village, most of whom were Lutheran worshippers which was b 3.5★s Hanne Nussbaum loved nature more than she loved her fellow humans. Of course she loved her mother and father, her brother Matthias but she felt awkward around others, as if she wasn’t good enough for them. Hanne was never happier than when she was in the forest. Until she met Thea and had a friend at last. Thea’s parents had recently arrived to the Prussian village of Kay in 1836, and Thea’s mother was a healer. But when the whole village, most of whom were Lutheran worshippers which was banned, were offered the chance to emigrate to South Australia, the excitement of being free at last to worship as they wished was wonderful. The long journey to Hamburg where they would embark took its toll, then the six month ocean voyage took a further toll. A small ship, not large enough to cater to the 200 souls who were on board, it wasn’t long before passengers began to die, and typhus raged through the berths. The conditions were appalling. Would their new start in the colony in South Australia be worth the challenges they faced? Devotion by Aussie author Hannah Kent is one I was looking forward to, but I found myself overwhelmed at ‘everything’ that was included in this beautifully written book. I feel Devotion would be classified as Literary Fiction (of which I'm not fond), as well as Historical. The descriptions of Hanne and her family’s hardship on the ship, the beauty of her love of nature with the music from the trees and river, Hanne’s familial love for Matthias and much more, made for a special read, but for me, a difficult one. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    This book is extraordinary. I now understand how important it is for me to trust an author. I am generally uncomfortable with magical realism and usually avoid books in which it plays a part. I knew nothing about this book before I read it however, other than it was written by Hannah Kent, both of whose previous novels, Burial Rites and The Good People, I loved. When this book’s storyline developed into magical realism therefore, I trusted Hannah Kent to take me with her on the journey and oh! W This book is extraordinary. I now understand how important it is for me to trust an author. I am generally uncomfortable with magical realism and usually avoid books in which it plays a part. I knew nothing about this book before I read it however, other than it was written by Hannah Kent, both of whose previous novels, Burial Rites and The Good People, I loved. When this book’s storyline developed into magical realism therefore, I trusted Hannah Kent to take me with her on the journey and oh! What a journey it is! The basis is the true story of the emigration of Prussian Lutherans to Australia to escape oppression in their homeland. In 1838, a group of around 100 Lutherans sailed for South Australia from Hamburg on the Kristi. They were ‘Old Lutherans’, those who rejected the Prussian King’s Reformed church and who were being penalised for continuing to worship in their own way. They left their villages in what is now Poland but was then Germany on a three week journey by road and canal to Hamburg. They were financed by a wealthy Scottish businessman, George Fife Angas, who was also Chair of the South Australian Company. A deeply religious man himself, he was impressed by these self sufficient people, mainly farmers, who were reputedly hard working and had high moral standards. He was sure that they would be assets in the development of South Australia so he gave them a good land deal and did everything he could to facilitate their journey. Kent always champions the outsider. In this book, even though the Lutherans were being persecuted themselves for being different, they in turn treated a newly arrived family of Wends (Slavic background but same faith) as outsiders. Because Anna Maria is known to use herbs to heal, it is rumoured that she is a witch. Many shun her, her husband and their daughter, others go to her for healing and advice. The other outsiders are the native Australians towards whom the Lutherans were hostile, despite them helping the new immigrants to identify food to eat and water sources. They in turn would see the Lutherans as the outsiders. This theme aside, this is essentially a love story that begins when Thea, Anna Maria’s daughter, meets Hanne and their friendship blossoms into something much, much deeper. I can’t emphasise strongly enough how beautiful the writing is. It’s impossible to choose just one passage as an example because the whole book sings with wonderful prose. I can’t imagine that Kent can write another book that I will enjoy as much as this but I am willing to trust that she will. I also trust that it will be as well researched as all of her books have been. With thanks to NetGalley and Pan McMillan for a review copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kylie H

    I am not sure where to start in reviewing this book, for me it felt too much. There was too much passion, sadness, heartbreak, hope and love packed into this book. It starts in the early 1800's in Prussia. Hanne is. a teenager who lives in a small lutheran community where she is friendless and feels unwanted by her community and family. She is different in that she can hear trees and other music in nature. When Thea, the daughter of a rumoured 'witch' moves with her family to the village, Hanne f I am not sure where to start in reviewing this book, for me it felt too much. There was too much passion, sadness, heartbreak, hope and love packed into this book. It starts in the early 1800's in Prussia. Hanne is. a teenager who lives in a small lutheran community where she is friendless and feels unwanted by her community and family. She is different in that she can hear trees and other music in nature. When Thea, the daughter of a rumoured 'witch' moves with her family to the village, Hanne finally feels like she has found her soul mate. Soon after this, the community is funded to make the move to Australia to establish a new lutheran community. The six months on the ship out to Australia is gruelling and an event occurs that provides a real twist in the story. After this event I cannot say I enjoyed the book nearly as much, as it took on a more supernatural tone. I think I will be in the minority with my opinion on this as the book is very beautifully written and certain characters struck a chord with me. Thank you Pan McMillan Australia and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Hannah Kent's eagerly awaited third novel was a difficult one for me to rate. My reading experience, out of 5, was something like 4-6!-3-5, so now that I've sat with it for a few days I think a solid 4/5 is a good reflection of how I feel about it. It has everything I've come to know and love about Kent's storytelling, plus a little something extra and unexpected. At face value, the story is irresistibly promising; a small Prussian village of Old Lutherans who have to practice their religion in Hannah Kent's eagerly awaited third novel was a difficult one for me to rate. My reading experience, out of 5, was something like 4-6!-3-5, so now that I've sat with it for a few days I think a solid 4/5 is a good reflection of how I feel about it. It has everything I've come to know and love about Kent's storytelling, plus a little something extra and unexpected. At face value, the story is irresistibly promising; a small Prussian village of Old Lutherans who have to practice their religion in secret, have the chance to settle in the emerging colony of South Australia, where they will be free to worship without fear of persecution. It delivers on that promise with a lengthy and difficult sea-voyage (based on the historic voyage of the Zebra in 1838), followed by the establishment of a new German-speaking settlement at Heiligendorf in the Adelaide Hills (inspired by the settlement of villages like Hahndorf in that area). Characterwise, we get a main family that includes twins, an outsider who joins the close-enough-to-closed community via marriage, and who inevitably attracts suspicion for her 'otherness', plus a few villagers who really struggle to accept change and difference, and make a bit of trouble. But the heart of the story belongs to two teenage girls who meet and form the most devoted of bonds - a bond that can withstand the greatest challenge imaginable. The book is literally in 3 parts (Before, After, Now), as is the story (Prussia, Ship, South Australia), but they don't quite match up. That's as far as I'll go towards describing an event that sets this story apart. Just when we think Kent is doing what she has done before, and does very well, she introduces a daring new element. At first I was thrilled, then a little perplexed as I began to understand how this element would manifest, and finally I got it - I absolutely got it, and felt thankful that Kent was able to so cleverly bring together such a tender and touching end to the story. I think established fans will not be disappointed, and it's likely Kent's fanbase will grow even larger to reward the risks that have been taken with this book. With thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan Australia for an advance copy to read and review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Imi

    This was announced literally 30 minutes ago and I'm already counting down the days until 3 February. This was announced literally 30 minutes ago and I'm already counting down the days until 3 February.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    Devotion is the third novel by best-selling award-winning Australian author, Hannah Kent. Hanne Nussbaum is almost fifteen when the Eichenwald family join their Old Lutheran community in the Prussian village of Kay. Hanne is friendless, connecting better with the sky and the trees, the river and the stars, than people, her twin brother Matthias the only one who understands her even a bit. “Even as a young child I had felt that girls forsook on whim and offered only inconstant friendship. Allegian Devotion is the third novel by best-selling award-winning Australian author, Hannah Kent. Hanne Nussbaum is almost fifteen when the Eichenwald family join their Old Lutheran community in the Prussian village of Kay. Hanne is friendless, connecting better with the sky and the trees, the river and the stars, than people, her twin brother Matthias the only one who understands her even a bit. “Even as a young child I had felt that girls forsook on whim and offered only inconstant friendship. Allegiances seemed to shift from day to day like sandbanks in a riverbed and, inevitably, I found myself run aground. Better to befriend a blanket of moss, the slip-quick of fish dart. Never was the love I poured into the river refused.” But Anna Maria Eichenwald seems to see her, to understand her instantly. When Hanne encounters Anna Maria’s daughter, Thea for the first time in her beloved forest, there’s none of the scorn the other village girls aim at her. Instead, Thea offers acceptance and interest. They quickly become close, trying to be together at every opportunity. Their community, having rejected the King’s union of the Protestant Churches, has to worship in secret; their pastor has fled, their church, bell removed, is locked by soldiers. The chance to leave, to emigrate to another land, a place where they will not be persecuted, is welcomed by the elders, but Hanne fears it will tear her from Thea: will the Eichenwalds join them? After an emotional leave-taking, a tiring journey to the port and delays, some two hundred souls finally cram into a ship with eighty berths for a six-month journey to South Australia. Crowded together, with less than optimum nutrition and water from tainted barrels, illness inevitably strikes, and a reduced number arrives at their longed-for paradise, the place they will build, Heiligendorf, their joy tempered by grief. Years later Hanne shares what she saw, heard, took part in: “I have described what has happened to me, and what I felt, and what I continue to feel. Gathered up and thrown on the wind to be wound on the air. To stir leaves and gutter candles and fill the sails of ships. I am unthreaded of it. I am the empty eye of the needle.” Once again, Kent gives the reader a masterpiece, a tale of love and grief and steadfastness. She describes a community persecuted for their beliefs, but who, when free to follow those beliefs, display less tolerance than might be hoped. The depth of her research into so many aspects of the lives of such a community is apparent on every page. Emotions are expertly rendered. Her prose is often exquisite, poetic: “The wings drew closer, beating against the sky. Rippling it. Cut the light with feathered knives” and “I had felt affirmation in my bones and blood and the wick of my soul had caught flame, had burned bright” and “And the birds, ever here, ever singing, a liturgy to govern the hours towards gods of cry and shriek and call. Kookaburra, magpie, shrike-thrush, wagtail. Currawong, crow, boobook. Scripture may no longer roll off my tongue in smooth certainty, but my mouth is still full of spirit. Holy Writ of living things, each one a prayer against the teeth” are examples. Hanne’s description of aboriginal dance: “The Peramangk were the first people I ever saw dancing… The music was unlike anything I had heard before. It threaded itself under my skin until I felt sewn through with sound, and then it pulled me to its source… the beauty and urgency of their movement was everything I had imagined dancing might be, their bodies shaped and held by a music that was closer to the sound I heard coming from the earth than any hymn of my homeland.” This is an absolute pleasure to read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Pan Macmillan Australia.

  11. 4 out of 5

    charlotte,

    my life is ruined Rep: lesbian mc, lesbian li

  12. 5 out of 5

    Allyce Cameron

    ”Love runs through her like a seam of gold. It runs through me, too, and we are illuminated.” I wanted to like this more than I did, in the end. The writing was, as I’ve come to expect from everything that Hannah Kent writes, exquisite, and yet I didn’t feel as connected to the book as I was hoping. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second, I think some of the descriptions were a tad overlong and could have been pared back. I am the first to admit however that I’m not super in tou ”Love runs through her like a seam of gold. It runs through me, too, and we are illuminated.” I wanted to like this more than I did, in the end. The writing was, as I’ve come to expect from everything that Hannah Kent writes, exquisite, and yet I didn’t feel as connected to the book as I was hoping. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second, I think some of the descriptions were a tad overlong and could have been pared back. I am the first to admit however that I’m not super in touch with nature and/or religion so maybe other readers will really enjoy these aspects. I still eagerly await anything Hannah Kent decides to write in future, she has such a beautiful way with language.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    It’s deeply comforting to be in the hands of a writer as accomplished as Hannah Kent. Gothic, queer historical fiction like this comes to life in her hands. Something surprising happens at the half-way point of this book and I was initially unsure about it but of course I can trust Kent and she made it beautiful. At a sentence level she is one of my favourite contemporary writers. Beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘It is time, I think, to tell my story.’ Prussia, 1836. Johanne (Hanne) Nussbaum is almost 15 years old, living with her family in the village of Kay. Her family are part of a community of Old Lutherans, which the King wants to reform. Bound by their interpretation of God’s law, the community seeks to move to a place where they will not be further persecuted. Hanne is different. She does not fit easily into the community because she does not conform to their expectations. She is close to her twin ‘It is time, I think, to tell my story.’ Prussia, 1836. Johanne (Hanne) Nussbaum is almost 15 years old, living with her family in the village of Kay. Her family are part of a community of Old Lutherans, which the King wants to reform. Bound by their interpretation of God’s law, the community seeks to move to a place where they will not be further persecuted. Hanne is different. She does not fit easily into the community because she does not conform to their expectations. She is close to her twin brother Matthias but has no close friends until Dorothea (Thea) Eichenwald and her family arrive. Hanne and Thea become close. The families of Kay are finally granted permission to leave Prussia, their voyage to South Australia is arranged, and in 1838 they board a ship. All aboard are looking forward to new beginnings. Hanne and Thea are inseparable. They love each other. But the ship is overcrowded, and the six-month journey will take its toll. Illness and poor food in cramped unhygienic conditions means that not all will survive the journey. There are some magical moments on this horrific journey: Hanne is in touch with nature wherever she is. One of the most memorable scenes is when Hanne, on the deck of the ship, sees a whale breach. She hears the songs in nature and appreciates them. And now I will stop telling you about the story because to fully appreciate Ms Kent’s magic, you need to read it unspoiled. The historical setting for this novel is based on the real-life settlement of Old Lutherans at Hahndorf in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. This provides the framework for a beautifully imagined story of transcendent love and devotion. Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  15. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    a beating heart of a novel. absolutely arresting in its beauty, everything in it so very vital, keenly and viscerally felt. and hannah kent's words are pure poetry; her writing exists on another plane entirely. the world she is able to conjure up here feels so capacious: seeds and trees and forests, lakes and oceans, birds and whales, time and life and love and song. everything in this novel just hums. it's a novel that struck such a deep chord with me, and i loved it so very much. a beating heart of a novel. absolutely arresting in its beauty, everything in it so very vital, keenly and viscerally felt. and hannah kent's words are pure poetry; her writing exists on another plane entirely. the world she is able to conjure up here feels so capacious: seeds and trees and forests, lakes and oceans, birds and whales, time and life and love and song. everything in this novel just hums. it's a novel that struck such a deep chord with me, and i loved it so very much.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    This is the summary of Devotion from the author's website: 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 fo This is the summary of Devotion from the author's website: 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. Devotion is both a queer romance and a ghost story, neither of which I would not normally read, nor even notice on the bookshop shelves, but Kent is a local writer whose first two novels Burial Rites and The Good People were both based on historical crimes and were internationally acclaimed. Devotion is set in my part of the world, and its emigration narrative is one I know very well. Kent's writing is lyrical, often lush. She has vividly created the worlds inhabited by her characters in their Old Lutheran villages in what was then Prussia; on their terrible 6-month sea journey to the colony of South Australia and then life in a new home in the Adelaide Hills (the village of Hahndorf is the actual site of the settlement renamed in the book). Her story is both intensely romantic and Romantic. Her central focus is on the relationship between the two women, Hanne and Thea, which Kent says she has written as a tribute to her wife. This review in The Guardian caught my feeling that the mystical romance is overdone. https://www.theguardian.com/books/202...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    Devotion by Australian author Hannah Kent tells the story of a Lutheran family in Prussia who flee religious persecution in the early 1800s and set sail for the colony of South Australia. Our narrator Hanne is a nature lover and different from other girls her age. She's an oddball in her village who doesn't really fit in, until she meets Thea. Several families from the town leave Prussia together and a large portion of the novel takes place on their hazardous and trying journey by sea to Australi Devotion by Australian author Hannah Kent tells the story of a Lutheran family in Prussia who flee religious persecution in the early 1800s and set sail for the colony of South Australia. Our narrator Hanne is a nature lover and different from other girls her age. She's an oddball in her village who doesn't really fit in, until she meets Thea. Several families from the town leave Prussia together and a large portion of the novel takes place on their hazardous and trying journey by sea to Australia. The writing is sublime and the conditions on board the ship felt so real that I began to feel a little claustrophobic just reading about their cramped living quarters and harsh conditions. The foreign beauty of the landscape when they arrive in South Australia is powerful and moving, and I enjoyed reading this fictionalised settlement of what we now recognise as Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. The treatment of the original custodians of this land was respectful and well handled and the author provides more information in her Author's Note at the end. Devotion is a slow moving character study about love and grief and I saw many parallels with Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. The writing is incredibly evocative and I often had to pause to enjoy the prose on the page. The title of this historical fiction novel is apt, as it's about an individual's right to worship, pray and embrace their own beliefs free from judgement and harm. But it's also about Hanne's devotion to nature, her twin brother and her friend Thea. I adored Burial Rites and thoroughly enjoyed The Good People, but here in Devotion, Hannah Kent does something a little different. While The Good People contained Gaelic superstitions and folklore, Devotion dips more than a toe into the supernatural realm around halfway through the book. This unexpected shift will be met with surprise by many readers and I suspect some won't enjoy the change in direction. I willingly went with it, however my favourite part of the novel by far was the beginning, prior to the journey to Australia. The daily lives of those in the village of Kay put me in mind of several novels I've enjoyed recently. Beautifully written, Devotion is about love and yearning, the uncertainty of youth and the hardships of the period. Overall, it was an emotionally heavy book to read, but so intricately lyrical at times I felt as though I was intruding on Hanne's private and inner most thoughts. It also made me wonder whether Kent drew on her own love story in order to create this fictional relationship so convincingly and so heartbreakingly. Devotion is the third novel by Hannah Kent and this talented Australian writer has now become an 'auto read' author for me, which is rare. Highly recommended for historical fiction readers who have the time and patience to slow down and enjoy a character study about love and devotion. * Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

  18. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Smith Writes

    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, 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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maria Smith

    "If the earth one day burns out its charge, you will find me in the ash. If the sea dries, find me in its sand. Fingers forever writing your name in ash, in sand, over and over in a love-patterned wasteland." This is the third Hannah Kent novel I've had the pleasure of reading and this beautifully written, extraordinary book did not disappoint. The story centers around Hanne and the migration of a Lutheran community from Prussia to a South Australian Colony in the early 1800's. Part historical, l "If the earth one day burns out its charge, you will find me in the ash. If the sea dries, find me in its sand. Fingers forever writing your name in ash, in sand, over and over in a love-patterned wasteland." This is the third Hannah Kent novel I've had the pleasure of reading and this beautifully written, extraordinary book did not disappoint. The story centers around Hanne and the migration of a Lutheran community from Prussia to a South Australian Colony in the early 1800's. Part historical, love story, ghost story with a naturalist heart. I was hooked to the end and it will stay with me for a while. Solid 5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley, the Publisher and the Author for an advance copy of this little gem. Highly recommend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I don’t think I have ever been so moved by a novel. I’m not a cryer, but I was moved to tears several times while reading, and I still feel emotional reflecting on this book. I had to take a break of a few days at one stage in the narrative. However, it wasn’t a tragic or distressing story. More like, to me, a story conveying deep intensity of feeling, of love, and yes, devotion. Beautiful. Hannah Kent is truly an extraordinarily gifted writer. She creates intensely poetic, but at the same time, I don’t think I have ever been so moved by a novel. I’m not a cryer, but I was moved to tears several times while reading, and I still feel emotional reflecting on this book. I had to take a break of a few days at one stage in the narrative. However, it wasn’t a tragic or distressing story. More like, to me, a story conveying deep intensity of feeling, of love, and yes, devotion. Beautiful. Hannah Kent is truly an extraordinarily gifted writer. She creates intensely poetic, but at the same time, simple language. Thank you Hannah for an extraordinary novel..

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bianca (Belladonnabooks)

    “And then I was the tree. Rivers of sap rolled through us; I could feel everything we were and everything we would be. Leaves not yet unfurled, blossom capped in gumnut, roots needling moisture from the soil. We were everything that had passed, and we were what would come, the waited-for.” Hannah Kent once again wows us with her ability to craft a story that is just as powerful as it is poetic. Hannah Kent is quite frankly an auto buy author for me now. She has proved herself without a shadow of “And then I was the tree. Rivers of sap rolled through us; I could feel everything we were and everything we would be. Leaves not yet unfurled, blossom capped in gumnut, roots needling moisture from the soil. We were everything that had passed, and we were what would come, the waited-for.” Hannah Kent once again wows us with her ability to craft a story that is just as powerful as it is poetic. Hannah Kent is quite frankly an auto buy author for me now. She has proved herself without a shadow of a doubt. Devotion feels quite special due to its exploration of queerness and identity which Hannah pre-faces herself as a gift to her younger, queer yet closeted self. These issues are explored through a historical lens which readers have come to expect from previous works. Devotion burns along slowly but surely, following the poignant friendship and love that develops between two girls in a village. Their love is all-consuming and breathtaking. Being witness to it felt incredibly special. I feel enamoured throughout the entire story. Hannah does a brilliant job as per usual of creating a vivid sense of time and place. The struggles and hardships of life in the nineteenth century for a person traveling to Australia were well documented. Overall, this is a story about relationships and is very character driven. An emotional read that will stay with me for quite some time after finishing. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Pan Macmillan for this opportunity.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    This one is so different from her normal books that I struggled but it's a good read all in all This one is so different from her normal books that I struggled but it's a good read all in all

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chantal Lyons

    I debated for ages whether to give this 3 or 4 stars, and I would give 3.5 if I could. I loved Kent's first book 'Burial Rites' and, while her second book 'The Good People' didn't captivate me quite as much, both had powerful narrative drives with a mystery at the heart of them. 'Devotion' is a very different kind of book, without a mystery, but what disappointed me was that the plot felt completely in service to the prose. The book came to 430 pages on my e-reader and could easily have been 100 I debated for ages whether to give this 3 or 4 stars, and I would give 3.5 if I could. I loved Kent's first book 'Burial Rites' and, while her second book 'The Good People' didn't captivate me quite as much, both had powerful narrative drives with a mystery at the heart of them. 'Devotion' is a very different kind of book, without a mystery, but what disappointed me was that the plot felt completely in service to the prose. The book came to 430 pages on my e-reader and could easily have been 100 pages shorter by cutting down on repetitive writing and the interludes in the narrator's present day which add nothing to the story (with the exception of the scene with the two men in the cabin, but that could've been folded into the main narrative). While Kent's prose is undoubtedly beautiful, it also felt cluttered here. That aside, the reason I've gone for 4 rather than 3 stars is the tender and poignant portrayal of the relationships between Hanne and other characters - not just her love, Thea, but also her brother, her father, her mother, and her friend Hans. This is where the book's heart lies, not in how many times the author could weave the word "song" into artistic sentences. The unfolding of the story surprised me in a good way. However, the climax is oddly very similar to that in The Lovely Bones, and I'll be interested to see how many other readers pick up on that too. To conclude - readers who prefer language over story will love this book the most. (With thanks to Picador and NetGalley for this ebook in exchange for an honest review)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

    How to preorder in Canada?! Someone please tell me if you know! PLS 😢 NEED NEW HANNAH KENT BOOK ASAP

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Hannah Kent is back with her third novel, Devotion, and it is one that will stay with you after the cover is closed. Devotion is not a fast-paced plot driven tale, it is a slow and luxurious exploration of characters. An exploration of a time that most of us would not be familiar with, and the way that those who were different had to live and fumble their way through that time. The story opens in Prussia, in the small religious village of Kay. A village of Old Lutherans being persecuted for their Hannah Kent is back with her third novel, Devotion, and it is one that will stay with you after the cover is closed. Devotion is not a fast-paced plot driven tale, it is a slow and luxurious exploration of characters. An exploration of a time that most of us would not be familiar with, and the way that those who were different had to live and fumble their way through that time. The story opens in Prussia, in the small religious village of Kay. A village of Old Lutherans being persecuted for their faith but determined to retain the old faith and live in the old ways. Eventually they are offered the opportunity to take passage on a ship that will take them to the new colony of South Australia where they will be free to worship as they desire. Hanne is our lead character and she isn’t the daughter her parents expected; she doesn’t want to marry, she doesn’t want to grow up and take on the responsibilities of a woman. Hanne wants to explore the forests and listen to the songs of nature. She is different to the other girls in the village, she knows it and they certainly don’t let her forget it. She doesn’t really have friends, except for her twin brother Matthias but the two are separated by their duties most of the time. A new family join the community, a little bit different which sees eyes cast their way with suspicion, but they have a daughter and Hanne may have just found a friend. There is quite a lot to this story that is not even alluded to in the blurb and I really don’t want to give away too much in my review, and that makes it difficult to know what to say. I did find it hard to really lose myself in the pages, though I also stayed up until 2.30am to finish it so it did capture my. I wonder if it’s safe to say that it captured my heart more than it captured my mind. Thea always comes across as a little otherworldly, I think because her family is different to the other families from Kay and Thea isn’t like the girls Hanne knows. She, too, has never really made good friends and joining a new community is never easy. The girls meet and become friends, spending as much time together as possible. Exploring a friendship they have never experienced before. The prospect of taking passage on the ship is a daunting one, for the whole village. They need to consider the uncertainty of their destination, 6 months on a ship crossing the world and the debt they need to take on to facilitate the passage. The girls also feel the pressure of knowing they can’t control the decision of their parents so being uncertain whether one will be left behind. Six months living in the bowels of a ship not designed to house so many people, and rapidly renovated to create bunks to do so, is not a pleasant experience for anyone. There is disease, there is death, there is struggle with ship damage and rations that don’t keep their quality. Kent takes us through the journey and it’s hardships in detail. Showing us the suffering of the people so determined to build a better life in their faith. A lot happened on the ship, a lot changed on the ship; but the villagers kept their faith and looked ever forward. The relationship they had with the sailors certainly changed from the beginning of the voyage to the end. On boarding it really seemed like these people were a paycheque but by the end they were looking to the sailors for advice and being shown different opportunities by the captain that they otherwise would never have known about. It was after the journey that I really got immersed because they landed in South Australia, about 160 years before I did. They travelled from the less than welcoming port where they landed across the countryside on foot until they formed a settlement of their own in the hills close to Adelaide. There they came across the Peramangk people, original custodians of the land on which they settled – And the land on which I reside. I was fascinated to read of the interactions between the Old Lutherans and the Peramangk people and spent a long time trying to work out where they settled. They didn’t call their new village anything that I recognise, but I did recognise one of the businesses that sprung up before the story ended. Devotion is very much a tale of love; of exploring love, the enduring nature of love, the things we do for love. There were some beautiful passages, and some beautiful events that celebrated love in many different forms. The prose of Hannah Kent is evocative and luxurious in its descriptiveness. It conjures emotion as well as the illustration of what she’s trying to convey and it is hauntingly beautiful. Devotion was a book that I wanted to read right from the start, simply so I could immerse myself in the poetry of Kent’s storytelling. Much of the beauty of Devotion is in its exploration of things that seemed impossible to the characters, of learning about the things they were yet to understand, of making sense of these emotions they didn’t think were possible. I don’t want to say too much more because it gets into where this book is so different to the others by Kent and I’ve just had a quick flick through Goodreads reviews to try and gauge how much has and hasn’t been said, so that I can decide how much I will say. I discovered that one element of the story, a rather large element, has been described differently at almost every mention and I think that just demonstrates how much personal interpretation plays into the way people read a story. Devotion has a very spiritual element running through it’s core and that took me away from the story at times, but I also absolutely adored it. I adored it’s conveyance of the power of love, the enduring nature of love and it’s timelessness. All of the characters are, actually not all of the characters. The villagers who undertook the journey are faithful Old Lutherans, they believe in their faith and their God and are tackling this journey for the freedom to practice their beliefs. They have no room in their belief system for homeopathy and old ways of healing, it all stinks of witchcraft and that breeds fear, and suspicion. This was another element I found quite fascinating, and heartbreaking. Devotion is different, it is an exquisite exploration of character, and of love. It isn’t going to sing the same song to everyone but I’m pretty certain no-one who picks it up will be disappointed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    I feel a little bereft now that I have finished this novel! This book is powerful, raw, poignant, haunting and contains the most exquisite prose. For example “the testimony of love is the backbone of the universe. It is the taproot from which all stories spring” or “My voice is held by the wind. Let me write my story on the air, and when it rains, let it pool upon the earth so that the valley may drink of it. Let this testament return to soil. Bones in the water. Voice on the land. When I am gon I feel a little bereft now that I have finished this novel! This book is powerful, raw, poignant, haunting and contains the most exquisite prose. For example “the testimony of love is the backbone of the universe. It is the taproot from which all stories spring” or “My voice is held by the wind. Let me write my story on the air, and when it rains, let it pool upon the earth so that the valley may drink of it. Let this testament return to soil. Bones in the water. Voice on the land. When I am gone, these things will remain.” These few lines give an indication of Hannah’s style of prose. Hannah Kent has chosen to write her novel as the main character Hanne. It is told in the first person and the story switches from present to past in this first person narrative. This technique works exceptionally well and this is what helps the reader feel as if they are feeling all of Hanne’s emotions. I really thought I knew where this story was going but half way through, this theory was completely turned upon it’s head. I personally loved what Hannah has done with this story but strongly feel that readers will either love or hate this novel. Essentially this is a love story. A very unique love story. The title of Devotion pertains to many things and is a fundamental theme of the book. “Devotion to people, to God (religion) to nature, family, the land and to a particular way of life.” The cover of the novel is also a tribute to the story within which I think is always a nice touch. Religion does focus heavily in the book but within context for the era it was set. It also explores the different values of Hanne, Thea and Anne Marie, as opposed to the majority of other characters which see religion as a way of life. Hannah Kent has achieved a trifecta as far as I am concerned. All three of her novels are different but hold the same writing style, strong characterisation, atmosphere and emotions. I was mesmerised by some of the opening lines on the first page, “Thea, if love were a thing, it would be the sinew of a hand stretched in in anticipation of grasping. See, my hands, they reach for you. My heart is a hand reaching.” A moving, memorable book that made my heart ache.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    True to form, Hannah Kent’s intense, lyrical prose is utterly immersive in her new novel, Devotion. At its heart, Devotion is a delicate love story between two young women – the narrator Hanne and her soulmate Thea. But giving their story its particular intensity is the historical context in which it’s entwined. The teenagers meet in 1836, not long before their families – part of a small, Prussian-based community of Old Lutherans – flee from religious persecution to the other side of the world, de True to form, Hannah Kent’s intense, lyrical prose is utterly immersive in her new novel, Devotion. At its heart, Devotion is a delicate love story between two young women – the narrator Hanne and her soulmate Thea. But giving their story its particular intensity is the historical context in which it’s entwined. The teenagers meet in 1836, not long before their families – part of a small, Prussian-based community of Old Lutherans – flee from religious persecution to the other side of the world, destined for the young colony of South Australia. Kent, who hails from South Australia, drew inspiration for her fictionalised account from the real voyage of the Zebra from Hamburg to Australia, an arduous six-month journey for 187 German Lutherans, who settled in 1838 around 30 kilometres east of Adelaide, naming their new community Hahndorf (fictionalised by Kent as Heiligendorf). Readers of Kent’s two previous acclaimed novels – Burial Rites and The Good People – will find strong parallels in Devotion. All three are set in the 1820-30s albeit in very different parts of the world, each with an almost mystical vibe as Kent explores the heavy prevailing influence of religion, superstition, folklore, witchcraft and the supernatural. And all three are profoundly shaped by grief and death. Kent’s acclaimed 2013 debut, Burial Rites, tells the haunting story of Icelandic woman Agnes Magnusdottir, as she awaits her execution in 1829, the last person condemned to death in her country. Three years later, Kent released The Good People, inspired by the 1826 death of a young Irish boy Michael Leahy. He was drowned by women who, believing him to be a changeling, had taken him to the river in an attempt to banish the fairies out of him. Death also permeates Devotion and, at the novel’s midpoint, plays a decisive role in taking the story into a completely new realm. It happens during the Lutheran migrants’ long ship voyage – a journey that is so masterfully depicted by Kent that you can almost feel the travellers’ physical discomfort, fears and exposure to peril, along with their wonderment at the ocean’s magnificence. Inevitably, some passengers perish mid-voyage, succumbing to disease such as scurvy and typhus – and this, curiously, includes the narrator Hanne. While this may seem like a spoiler, it’s a key plot point. From this moment forward the novel is infused with magical realism, as the dead Hanne takes on a ghost like form, becoming an invisible witness to the ongoing journey of her family and community – and, importantly, Thea. At first I was unconvinced by Kent’s decision to take Hanne into the “afterlife”. I felt it was a little contrived given the novel’s first half provided such a richly imagined, vivid and plausible portrayal of 1830s life in Hanne’s small community and their perilous pilgrimage. Stepping so quickly into supernatural realms felt like an aimless misstep. On reflection I can see the manoeuvre meant Kent could allow Hanne to explore, uninhibited, her feelings for Thea in a way she couldn’t have conceivably done during her 19th century existence. In life, she was bound by the expectations of her community’s oppressive religious fervour – dancing was not allowed and physical affection rare, let alone the utterly sinful act of a queer relationship, considered so wrong it couldn’t even be spoken. But in death, when Hanne’s ghost is largely undetectable and no rules dictate her movements, she can listen in on previously unheard conversations and watch previously unseen intimacies, helping her to understand and accept hers and Thea’s yearning to be close. The real joy for me in this novel is Kent’s undeniable mastery of her characters and the details of their lives. Besides the irresistible depth of the protagonists, Kent provides a vibrancy to all members of their community, from the imperious head pastor imposing his beliefs, through to Hanne’s dear twin brother who deeply mourns her loss, deftly navigating each character’s struggle to decipher the right path through life. It also provides fascinating insights into the settlement of the Lutherans in South Australia, a piece of Australia’s colonialism I knew little about, including their encounters with the traditional owners of the land they took, the Peramangk people. Devotion is a rich, immersive, often surprising novel, written with prosody that sings. Many thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan Australia for the much appreciated ARC which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Hannah Kent is quite possibly the most talented writer of our time. I’ve always loved Coleridge’s definition of prose being words in their best order, but poetry being the best words in their best order. Although Devotion appears to be prose, by this definition it is poetry. Kent has a way with words that is uniquely beautiful and soul-touching. In 19th century Prussia, Hanne has never felt she fully belongs. A child of nature, attuned to beauty in a way her Old Lutheran community will never und Hannah Kent is quite possibly the most talented writer of our time. I’ve always loved Coleridge’s definition of prose being words in their best order, but poetry being the best words in their best order. Although Devotion appears to be prose, by this definition it is poetry. Kent has a way with words that is uniquely beautiful and soul-touching. In 19th century Prussia, Hanne has never felt she fully belongs. A child of nature, attuned to beauty in a way her Old Lutheran community will never understand, 15 year old Hanne is not ready to become an adult, marry and have children. She meets Thea, a kindred spirit, and discovers love in various forms. The community migrates to Australia for religious freedom, but six months at sea will mean not everyone makes it to Adelaide alive and well. This book is actually difficult for me to review as I loved the writing immensely, but aspects of the story did not work for me. The blurb made it quite clear that, as a consequence of something that happens at sea, Thea and Hanne will not be able to be together. I was of course unsurprised this would happen given the historical and religious context, but I did not expect the actual reason and the way the novel would deal with it. In fact, I was quite confused for a while in the second part of the book when I assumed I was reading about a fever dream, then realised I was not. From a lesser writer, I might have stopped reading, but when Kent works magic with her words you are compelled to read on. This book is indeed an exquisite tragedy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    Having enjoyed both of Hannah Kent's previous works, I was keen to see what Devotion had to offer. Overall, it was an enjoyable and emotional read. Kent's prose is always a delight -- lyrical and powerful. It draws you in with beautiful, impactful description. Hanne was a wonderful character and a compelling narrator, and, as a fantasy fan, I had no issue with the paranormal twist partway through the story. I am giving this work a solid four stars. It was enjoyable on many levels and is a book I Having enjoyed both of Hannah Kent's previous works, I was keen to see what Devotion had to offer. Overall, it was an enjoyable and emotional read. Kent's prose is always a delight -- lyrical and powerful. It draws you in with beautiful, impactful description. Hanne was a wonderful character and a compelling narrator, and, as a fantasy fan, I had no issue with the paranormal twist partway through the story. I am giving this work a solid four stars. It was enjoyable on many levels and is a book I am glad I read, but unlike Burial Rites, or even The Good People, I don't see myself returning to reread it, as it didn't grip me to that extent, perhaps because of the heavy religious aspects which didn't resonate with me. If you've read Kent's previous works and enjoyed them, I am sure you will like Devotion too. If you are new to her writing, I would recommend starting with Burial Rites. I received this book as a free ARC from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    The author seems to have a thing with young women living in a society with strict religious constraints, unrequited love and some sort of supernatural element. In her third book she follows Hanne, a member of a persecuted Lutheran sect who emigrate to South Australia. The first half of the book covers life in Prussia, the pressure on the farming sect to adapt, their freedom to emigrate and details of a most unpleasant journey by ship. The descriptions of the life of the settlers onboard was one o The author seems to have a thing with young women living in a society with strict religious constraints, unrequited love and some sort of supernatural element. In her third book she follows Hanne, a member of a persecuted Lutheran sect who emigrate to South Australia. The first half of the book covers life in Prussia, the pressure on the farming sect to adapt, their freedom to emigrate and details of a most unpleasant journey by ship. The descriptions of the life of the settlers onboard was one of the best I have read on their conditions and challenges to survive the weather, cramp conditions, poor food and rotten water they were given. The second half lost me with a ghost now the narrator. Pity because the writing throughout was always descriptive and the emotions of the young women very realistic.

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