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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.
The Nussbaums are Old Lutherans, bound by God's law and at odds with their King's order for reform. Forced to flee religious persecution the families of Kay board a crowded, disease-riddled ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. In the face of brutal hardship, the beauty of whale song enters Hanne's heart, along with the miracle of her love for Thea. Theirs is a bond that nothing can break.
The whale passed. The music faded.
South Australia, 1838
A new start in an old land. God, society and nature itself decree Hanne and Thea cannot be together. But within the impossible...is devotion.
This long-awaited novel demonstrates Hannah Kent's sublime ability with language that creates an immersive, transformative experience for the reader. Devotion is a book to savour.
by Ben Hunter
Devotion by Hannah Kent is my favourite of the bestselling author's three books and as of now it's the best thing I've read this year. Devotion is a novel about faith, family, grief, refuge, trust, our humanity and the eternal. Devotion is a love story.
Like her international successes, Burial Rites and The Good People, Devotion is a historical novel which focuses attention on the untold stories of women in far-flung places, where the natural and modern worlds exist in conflict and ancient and oral belief systems clash with reformed, modern ideologies. In this novel however, it seems Kent has loosened her grip on established historical fact and further embraced the more imaginative side of her craft whilst maintaining her deep attention to the past. Simply put, there's a lot more magic at play in Devotion. This doesn't bloat the storytelling or jar with the reader; it works. You have to experience it for yourself.
Devotion is also Kent's first novel to be set partly in Australia. It tells the story of Hanne Nussbaum, a child of nature who is on the cusp of womanhood, born to a strict Lutheran family whose closed-off community is unwanted in 1830s Prussia. Hanne is friendless, save for her brother, and finds her mother's pressure towards marriage increasingly distressing. Then the miracle of Thea enters her life. Soon Hanne and those around her are on a disease-ridden ship bound for the colony of South Australia, where tragedy and beauty are felt in equal measure and the author grapples with the ancient brilliance of the continent's ecology and the frontier contact between the Lutherans and the Peramangk and Kaurna nations.
Anyone familiar with Hannah Kent's writing will know that she labours on her prose for years to achieve a power, beauty and exactitude that is unrivaled. In Devotion, the now-seasoned author takes her skill to a whole new level. This is one of those books where you can just sit and marvel at its sentences for hours. The novel is also unique in its reverence of love and the attachment that holds us together through traumas big and small. Kent's fans and new readers alike will adore the book's attention to the unvoiced minds of women and the worlds of knowledge that inhabit them.
Devotion was the novel I needed to get me through this moment of grief and solitude. Read it. You'll be changed too.