Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Description of the book:

Birnam Wood

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 LuminariesBirnam 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.

Birnam Wood Book Short Review:

I was initially hesitant to read Eleanor Catton’s latest book, having not read her highly praised previous novel, The Luminaries. At first, I thought this book might be too dense for me to enjoy, with its lengthy philosophical arguments and long-winded characters. But as I delved deeper into the story, I found myself captivated by the realistic portrayal of the characters and their ideals.

The story begins with a group of idealistic young adults running a gardening collective in New Zealand. Their anti-capitalist ideals lead them to trespass on private property to create their gardens. However, their anarchist tendencies lead them to question what to do when they are offered a large sum of money that could help them further their cause.

The tension between two characters, Mira and Shelley, who have grown close through their work in the collective but have long-festering resentments, creates a captivating entry point into the story. As they navigate their personal conflicts, they become embroiled in a complex web of interactions with a billionaire and a long-winded individual who always seems to be right.

The unpredictable path the story takes kept me on the edge of my seat. Catton’s writing style, with its long sentences and paragraphs, immerses the reader in the story, allowing us to see all facets of the characters. Though the book explores political ideals, it never gets bogged down in politics, and the one lengthy argument only adds to the full, fascinating picture of the story.

Overall, this book is very well plotted and has much to offer readers. Though it may not fit neatly into a specific genre, I believe it will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those who enjoy crime novels. Eleanor Catton’s ability to create complex characters and compelling storylines is sure to leave readers wanting more.

About The Author:

Eleanor Catton (born 1985) is a New Zealand author. Catton was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master’s in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote her first novel, The Rehearsal, as her master’s thesis.Eleanor Catton holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in fiction from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Currently she teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

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