Eleanor Catton

Birnam Wood (trade paperback)

Publication Date:
February 2023
Trade Paperback

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Shortlisted for the 2024 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

NZ Listener Best Books of 2023

Birnam Wood is on the move ...

A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass in the South Island of New Zealand, cutting off the town of Thorndike, leaving a sizable farm abandoned. This land offers an opportunity to Birnam Wood, a guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. But they hadn’t figured on the enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine, who also has an interest in the place. Can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?

A gripping thriller from the Booker Prize–winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama and immersion in character. A brilliantly constructed tale of intentions, actions and consequences, it is an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.

Birnam Wood is terrific. As a multilayered, character-driven thriller, it’s as good as it gets. Ruth Rendell would have loved it. A beautifully textured work – what a treat.’ —Stephen King

Birnam Wood is electric: a spectacular book. It has the pace and bite of a thriller. It has an iron-willed morality. It feels like the product of astonishing skill, and formidable love. It’s literally, physically breathtaking.’ —Katherine Rundell, author of Super-Infinite

‘What I admired most in Birnam Wood was the way that the rapid violence of the climax rises, all of it, out of the deep, patient, infinitely nuanced character-work that comes before. If George Eliot had written a thriller, it might have been a bit like this.’ —Francis Spufford, author of Golden Hill

‘A filmic and page-turning thriller – Eleanor Catton weaves a complex and absorbing web of human relationships in which the balance of power is constantly and unpredictably shifting. Hubris and ambition, vanity and greed, principle and expediency, courage and hope – all are here, but not necessarily where you expect to find them.’ —Carys Davies

‘This is an urgent, compelling read, bleak but deeply moving and humanly credible. Eleanor Catton offers an unsparing analysis of the various deadly self-delusions and corruptions that are generated by our global denial of the planet's crisis – but also by our naive, confused yearnings to be numbered among the righteous. It is a book of real moral depth.’ —Rowan Williams

‘I read this in two deep gulps – it’s delicious, it had me re-reading passages aloud. Catton’s storytelling is deft and irresistible in this merciless whirlpool of a book, which pulls you inexorably towards its final tragedy.’ —Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘Ten years after her Booker Prize–winning, door-stopping historical novel The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton brings us a shorter, sharper – and no less superb – novel that is determinedly set in the contemporary world.’ —Paul Little, North and South

‘I’m dazzled by Catton’s brilliance. And terrified too. This is fiction that rubs very close to the bone.’ —Claire Mabey, The Spinoff

‘A wrenchingly effective, darkly funny and flawlessly crafted single-sitting thriller.’ —Sam Finnemore, Kete Books

‘A genuine thriller that keeps you engaged until the final, savage scene.’ —Charlotte Grimshaw, NZ Listener

‘I want nothing more than for people to read the book so I can discuss the ending with them.’ —Rachael King, Newsroom

ELEANOR CATTON is the author of The Luminaries (2013), winner of the Booker Prize, the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award, and the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction. Her debut novel, The Rehearsal (2009), won the New Zealand Best First Book of Fiction Award and the Betty Trask Prize, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize. As a screenwriter, she adapted The Luminaries for television, and Jane Austen’s Emma for feature film. Born in 1985 in Canada and raised in New Zealand, she lives in Britain.

Cover design: Jon Gray

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