Cover Image: Devotion

Devotion

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Member Reviews

This book was amazing. I coudn't put it down. It was magical. Higly recommended! The characters, the plots, the writting: wonderful and perfect.
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*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book.* 

What a surprisingly delightful read. I really enjoyed the majority of this queer love story even though I think that the strongest part of the novel is the first part. And I really hated the killing the gays part even though there was SPOILER a very Madeline Miller'esque 'happy' ending. I do not want to delve into the content too much but the setting is very different from anything else I've encountered so far and as a German speaking person, it was fun. I also learned a lot. 

4 stars
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It’s not often that I’ll finish a book and hug it. Genuinely, that’s what I did with Devotion by Hannah Kent. 

Devotion is set in the early 19th century in Prussia. Hanne, her family and friends are Old Lutherans, and must worship in secret in the woods. For Hanne, a child of nature, this is the ideal place of worship. But it is dangerous for them all. 

Hanne doesn’t make friends easily, and so when Thea arrives in the village with her family, she unexpectedly finds her soul mate. 

All the families in the village are given the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, where they will be able to worship their religion without the threat of violence. But the journey doesn’t go as planned. Too many people are packed in to too small a space. Disease is rife. And with disease, comes death. 

This is a truly beautiful book. The descriptions of the landscapes and nature of both Prussia and Australia are evocative. The characters are fully rounded and easy to empathise with. In all, it’s my favourite kind of book: slow, quiet, gorgeous prose and imagery on every page. 

The real surprise was the magical realism. If I’d known it was in this book, I wouldn’t have been put off one bit, and it really does add something extra special. Oh my god, I cried buckets. It’s just perfection. 

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for my copy of this wonderful book through NetGalley.
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In Prussia, 1836, fourteen-year-old Hanne lives in a world-within-a-world, a strict religious group where worship must be kept secret and hidden from the sight of neighbours. ‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent is the story of Hanne’s persecuted community. They live in fear of expulsion or worse. But when a new family arrives Hanne meets another outsider, Thea, and her life is changed forever.
Kent takes her time with the first half. This is a slow start, a painstaking building of the relationship between Hanne and Thea, drawing the world in which neither fits. As Hanne reaches womanhood, her life is changing in small ways. Her mother increasingly separates her from twin brother Matthias as they are prepared for different adult lives. Hanne simply longs to be free to be in the woods, to listen to the sounds of nature alive. But in times of fear or uncertainty, when she bristles against the strict confines set by her mother, the unshakeable belief of her father, she cleaves to her twin. The glimpse of a different world offered by Thea’s family, the more open way they behave with each other, makes Hanne’s mild dissatisfaction with her life become an acute fear of being trapped.
When the offer of safe passage to Australia comes from a helpful member of their congregation, a new life where they will be able to worship without fear becomes possible. ‘Without my father’s devotion to that Bible I would not be here. Without that Bible, nothing would have happened.’
The story is told in three parts, or ‘days’, and the event occurring at the end of the first day is perhaps not surprising but what follows is. To explain, is to tell too much of the plot. The second part, when the travellers settle in the Adelaide Hills, is slow paced. After the sections in Prussia and onboard ship, the indulgence of the writing in what is already a slow-paced novel begins to drag a little. 
Kent’s writing is strongest when describing Hanne’s visceral connections with land and sea, with nature, with animals. She seems to directly commune with living creatures, to hear their voices. There is a magical element – magic or witchcraft – threaded throughout the story which is both a benefit and a curse, a source of division within the Lutherans but a form of communication with the native Peramangk community who live on the land the Lutherans claim for their settlement of Heiligendorf.
The theme of devotion, and love, runs throughout. The love shared by Hanne and Thea, but also Hanne’s love for her brother, her friend Hans and her parents. The devotion both to their shared faith and to each other. It is Hanne alone who feels the connection to nature and her devotion to every living creature, and this sets her apart. 
At times the beautiful prose dominates the storyline and I lost track of the moment where the action paused. I admit to skipping chunks. No matter the beauty, the tenderness of the writing, a strong narrative is essential to stop the reader floundering and continue reading.
Basically, this is a love story, of love unobtainable and out of reach, but a love all-consuming. With a touch of the supernatural. 
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/
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This is my first Hannah Kent novel and after reading the book I need to change that and read all of her backlist it was that amazing. Will be in my top reads for this year it is such a beautiful and lyrical novel on love and nature. It took me a few pages to get into it and once I got to the halfway mark where story really kicks into another level I couldn’t put it down and by the end the book destroyed me (in a good way). A must read for 2022 you can’t let this one pass you by.
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Devotion is a beautiful, lyrical love story between Hanne, a Prussian girl who has a wild spirit in odds with her small, religious community, and Thea, a newcomer to the community. It is set in 1830s and starts off in Prussia, where Hanne and Thea's village members live as old Lutherans but are unable to worship openly, and so they set off to Australia in search of a new, free life.

Hannah Kent's gorgeous writing style is both haunting and evocative - sometimes bordering on too much, in my opinion. The sentences are so lovely and so carefully crafted they can make you cry ("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."). This is a slow, quiet book, more love story than adventure or social commentary of the colonization of Australia. If you love sad, romantic stories (and don't mind a supernatural touch) this is the book for you.

That being said, there was something about this that felt a bit lacking, which is why I'm giving it 4 stars. The gorgeousness of the writing can't really make up for the slightly superficial look into immigration, colonization. I was also found a bit uninspired the "wild child in a historical setting" trope. Things moved so slowly that I was bored a few times and occasionally missed a few minutes of narration when my mind wandered. I don't think doing something political was the objective with this novel, and it did what it set out to do, which is telling a story of love and devotion. I highly recommend this for fans of The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
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Devotion by Hannah Kent

Kent’s two previous historical novels were rooted in fact, the first Burial Rites told of the last woman to be executed in Iceland in 1829, the second, The Good People, was based on a real legal case in early 19th century Ireland.  Both had a commonality of women navigating a strict religious world built by men with little or no accommodation to women.   Whilst Kent's latest novel is based around fictional characters (although inspired by Kent's ancestors) the themes of women living within a patriarchal religious society is still central to her third novel Devotion.

Devotion introduces us to Hanne, a young teenage girl living in a Lutherian community in Prussia in the early 19th century.  She doesn’t feel like she fits in with the other girls preferring to be with nature to the more acceptable feminine pursuits and she worries she is a disappointment to her mother.  The new family moves into the community and Hanne meets their  teenage daughter Thea, and they quickly develop an intense relationship which is cemented with a secret kiss.  Because the Lutherian community is in danger from the Emperor they as a community receive permission to sail to Southern Australia.  The community and another nearby Lutherian community join forces and endure a six month sea journey to Australia before establishing a village there.  The descriptions of living in a ship in such close quarters for six months and the dangers of such a journey are described in vivid detail.   This is the first novel I have read that describes the danger and unpleasantness of such a long sea voyage from the passengers perspective and Kent devotes the first half of the book to this alone.

It is up to this point engaging historical fiction but a surprising plot twist shifts the story and it progresses in a very different direction.  Although the twist itself was interesting and surprising it changed the novel in such a way that the second half ended up feeling flat.  There was little chance for character development and instead we become distant observers of the community which whilst interesting on a surface level it was much less engaging. We continue to follow the members of the village but they seem little changed by their experiences and their new settlement.  The transition from persecuted refugees to colonising settlers isn’t really explored and the interactions and effect of this new community on the indigenous people (the foundations of which became a genocide) is given only a cursory glance (this is a book published in 2022) in favour of teenage love.   
 
For those who enjoy romantic historical fiction, this book would be a great read.  It is refreshing to have a lesbian/queer love story that embraces the joy of that love with little guilt or shame that lgbtq+ characters often succumb to in historical settings.  But for me I felt the story of the migration fell a little flat as the plot twist left a very limited direction for the rest of the novel to go.
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I don’t really know where to begin with this book. I went in expecting a historical Sapphic romance, and that’s what I got, but it was also so. much. more. 

I am not a religious person, but the way Hannah Kent writes about faith, and how she crafts our narrator’s relationship to God and the world was so beautiful, so vivid and alive, I was completely swept away with it. 

Hanne was a beautiful protagonist, and the emotional attachment I had with her through this story reach new depths, particularly after the half way mark. Her relationship with her family, and her community, Thea, but most of all her relationship with nature was so beautiful

I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much reading a book, and my heart still hurt even after a few hours of finishing it. 

This book is a love story in three parts: it’s romantic; familial; and also underpinning it all, it’s a love letter to the earth, and nature. I’ve simply never read anything like it. 

I am so grateful to NetGalley and PanMacmillan for my e-ARC, but I will one hundred percent be buying my own physical copy. 

Five stars across the board.
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I am a big fan of Hannah Kent and this book did not disappoint. It is written in her typical lyrical, magical prose with the pacing of a thriller/ adventure story. I gobbled it up!
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A Beautifully written love story with a supernatural twist which didn't really sit easily with me. I also found it heartbreaking, in fact too heartbreaking to read in parts. Unusual, engaging but possibly too difficult to read for anyone who has lost a loved one recently.
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A historical fiction that I enjoyed very much! I took my time with this book, I didn’t fly through it just something about it, made me want to spend longer with these characters and where they would lead me as a reader. 

A great story, loved the two main characters and how their story unfolded! For sure would recommend to many many people! Especially the historical fiction lovers out there
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So beautifully and lyrically written, I rarely come across an author who writes with such rhythm and attention to language as Hannah Kent. I appreciated the positive representation of queer romance in this novel, and the depth of detailed research that had so clearly gone into the descriptions of this Old Lutheran community, in their way of life day-to-day in Prussia, and the hardships they faced on this sea journey across the world. I was completely immersed in their world.
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'Devotion' is set in 19th century Prussia and is the story of Hanne who lives a quiet, cosseted life in a small village, until she meets Thea... I found this a deeply moving, intriguing novel and I loved it.
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I thought I knew what I was getting myself in for with a new book by Hannah Kent – beautiful yet a little eerie historical fiction by a brilliant writer, but Devotion was so unexpected. A forbidden love story, an adventure story, and a ghost story all in one, going from the forests of Germany in the 1800s, the hardship of months at end at sea and finally a new life for exiled Lutherans in Australia. The pages sing whenever Kent describes the natural world, with far too many breathtaking lines to note. My heart ached for Hanne and Thea and their exiled, brave families and I was constantly surprised by every weird, spooky turn the book took as it went on.

The book is rooted in the past but feels like another world, which is also true of Kent’s other books, Burial Rites and The Good People. It is about Hanne and Thea, two young girls who are part of a Lutheran community practicing their religion in secret. They fall in love without realising, and their feelings only deepen with the danger of their voyage to Australia. Their devotion to one another is as dangerous as the religion they are being outlawed for, and as the suspicion about Thea’s mother’s unnatural healing abilities. It’s really a book of two halves and it changes completely in a way that feels like a curve ball but elevates the novel to something stranger but even better than I had thought.

I noted, half asleep, when finishing, that Devotion sounds like a Florence and the Machine song and I stand by that: strange and dark and beautiful and epic feeling. It reminded me of Our Wives Under The Sea and like a weirder The Time Travellers Wife, which is high praise coming from me!
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'Devotion' by Hannah Kent is one of the most beautiful, evocative, heart breaking and hopeful novels I've read in a very long time. It follows the story of Hanne, a solitary, sensitive young woman who 'hears' the natural world, and who finds herself falling in love with her best and only friend Thea. When Hanne's family and the rest of her Lutheran community are forced into exile, Hanne journeys with Thea by sea to an Australian colony. It is on this voyage that the novel takes a totally unexpected curve, and the writing sings on the page. The exquisite prose really placed me in the moment, and I was haunted by Hanne  and her story long after I finished the book. Absolutely wonderful.
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I have struggled with the format of and arc of this one and I couldn't finish reading it cause of it. I did buy a copy and I will review it on my GR and IG pages once I read it.
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The format of this ePub arc is unreadable. I have decided to buy a physical and will edit this feedback with my review and links once finished.
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A interesting book and beautify written but it was very clique too with the falling for a woman story line. It lacked something for me, I just can't put my finger on what and I really don't think it helped that the formatting of the ARC was so bad and disrupted the flow of the reading experience.
I enjoyed the time period though and the overall story but I may need to buy this as a finished product to really appreciate the writing in a final state.
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"If I testify no one will hear me. Is a story unheard a story diminished?"

3.5 stars ramped up because of the arrestingly beautiful prose Hannah Kent is capable of delivering.

Just a small warning: This is literary fiction with elements of magical realism. I felt I needed to mention that before I begin my review because it is not mentioned anywhere, in the blurb or otherwise. And I feel it is appropriate here for readers to know what they're getting into.

In this almost saga-like story, the narrative is told by Hanne (Johanne Nussbaum), a German teenager on the verge of adulthood. Hanne was born and raised in the small rural village of Kay, in 1836 Prussia. Kay is the abode of a small Old Lutheran congregation. Old Lutheranism being outlawed by the King of Prussia at that time, the villagers of Kay suffer continuous persecution and prejudice for their convictions. Not only is Kay different from the rest of Prussia, but Hanne herself is different from the rest of Kay. Hanne can hear the hum of nature loud and clear.

"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 a grass at the uncultivated edges of our village, listening at the ticking of insects, or plunging my feet in deep snow until my stockings grew wet and my toes numb."

One day a new family of Old Lutherans arrive into Kay, and a quick bond forms between Hanne and Thea, the daughter of the new comers. But in their friendship something else takes root between the two girls. And soon enough the two become inseparable. But Kay is always threatened by the wrath of the outside world and when the King gives his permission of this congregation to leave for the new colonies in Australia to practice their religion freely, the villagers of Kay rejoice unaware of the gruelling voyage ahead and the harsh new world that awaits them.

Lyrical prose describes the most intimate of thoughts and feelings that passes through Hanne . Sentences strung together like lullabies. The hope, the sadness, the grief, the rejoice, the sickness, the recovery, the loss, the departure, the arrival, all of it is portrayed with deep and intimate attentiveness.

But...
One thing fell short. And that is PLOT.
Almost 50% in, the element of magical realism comes into play at full force, and instead of elevating the plot, it deflated the conflict. To skirt around spoilers, I'll call it Hanne's change of state. It made the conflict and tension in the dynamics between Hanne and Thea void. There was no reason for THAT particular conflict anymore. That 'change of state' made Hanne's oneness with nature complete and lent beauty to long descriptive passages on the workings of nature, but it did not lend the plot any gravitas. Hanne became simply another omnipresent narrator rather than an active voice. Even Thea's internal conflict with what might have happened to Hanne was pure conjecture. It had no leverage.

Another thing that could have strengthened the plot was the dynamics between the new arrivals and the indigenous people of South Australia. Politics was merely peripheral in Kent's work. The dynamics between white colonials and native aboriginals wasn't explored with any depth. But I'd give Kent the benefit of doubt and suppose that she was exploring this world strictly from the point of view of a teenager who didn't know much of the workings of human politics.

I'm very grateful for the chance to review this book. It was mesmerising for the most part of it.
Thank you Picador books and NetGalley for my eArc.
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In 19th century Prussia, adulthood and domestic life is approaching for Hanne. Her family are Old Lutherans, a community in danger in their homeland, but they are soon given the chance to sail to Australia, where they can worship freely. But what will the journey mean for the incredibly special bond between Hanne and fun-loving, bewitching Thea? Devotion is a beautifully written but bleak story of a love that simply cannot be destroyed, even by the ultimate separation. Hannah Kent’s writing style is very immersive, which lends the book a breath-taking, cinematic quality. You’ll cry a lot with this one!
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