The Sunday Times Bestseller
NAMED AS ONE OF GRANTA MAGAZINE'S BEST OF YOUNG BRITISH NOVELISTS 2023
FINALIST FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL FICTION 2023
FROM THE WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
Birnam Wood is on the move...
Five years ago, Mira Bunting founded a guerrilla gardening group: Birnam Wood. An undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic gathering of friends, this activist collective plants crops wherever no one will notice, on the sides of roads, in forgotten parks, and neglected backyards. For years, the group has struggled to break even. Then Mira stumbles on an answer, a way to finally set the group up for the long term: a landslide has closed the Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike. Natural disaster has created an opportunity, a sizable farm seemingly abandoned.
But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. Robert Lemoine, the enigmatic American billionaire, has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker - or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, Birnam Wood, and their entrepreneurial spirit, he suggests they work this land. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?
A gripping psychological 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 consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton switches deftly between a view of the horrifying bigger picture and the close, interpersonal drama that sets the stage for a truly shocking finale in this disquieting eco-thriller. It centres around the fractious bonds between the members of an activist group—the “Birnam Wood” of the title. The environmental anxiety that weighs on the front half of the book fades to background noise in the second. That’s where Catton’s villain—a superficially-charming billionaire using the collective to hide an illegal mining operation—manipulates all the variables in a high-stakes game of risk he intends to win. It’s an uncanny mirroring of how easily the climate crisis slips in our priorities in the face of real life. Catton artfully increases the sense of dread in just the right increments throughout the events of the main story, but it’s both the overt and the underlying political commentary that invokes the most sinking feeling of all.
Booker winner Catton (The Luminaries) returns with a tragic eco-thriller of betrayed ideals and compromised loyalties involving a collective of guerilla gardeners in New Zealand. The group, Birnam Wood, sets its sights on a farm in Korowai National Park after a landslide maroons the isolated township of Thorndike, and three personalities vie for control. As matriarch Mira Bunting, 29, uses a series of aliases to scout and buy the land, her duplicity brings her into conflict with the younger Shelley Noakes, whose own beliefs are further strained by the return of ex-member Tony Gallo, a would-be journalist with an ax to grind regarding some of Birnam's rhetoric (in a scene of stellar dialogue, a group of members, all white and economically privileged, object to Tony's claims that intersectionality and polyamory are capitalist concepts). Mira's and Shelly's designs on the farm are complicated as they run afoul of Robert Lemoine, an amoral American billionaire suspected of murdering his wife, who has secretly purchased the land and agrees to fund Birnam Wood's occupation as a cover for his mining operation (Robert's work had caused the landslide, a detail he's trying to keep under wraps). As Mira plays into Robert's hands, Tony goes on the warpath, and their various schemes collide in a shocking crime. Catton injects granular details into her depiction of mining's impact on the land and those who tend to it, and she pulls a taut, suspenseful story from the tangle of vivid characters. Thanks to a convincing backdrop of ecological peril, Catton's human drama is made even more acute.