Great news! Eleanor Catton is coming to Christchurch for a WORD Christchurch event. It's on Wednesday 24 May from 7pm to 8.15pm at the Aurora Centre. She'll be in conversation with former WORD programme director Nic Low.
Last time I heard Eleanor Catton in person was at WORD Christchurch in 2014, the year after she won the Booker Prize. I was lucky enough to have a chat with her, and she dubbed me a Sceptical Scorpio (correct). It's a long awaited and welcome return.
I've just finished her latest book - the thrill-tastic / environmental / late-capitalism critiqueing page-turner Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. At first I found it a bit distant and chilly. But not for long. I love a book where things happen that you don't see coming. There are plenty of twists, and the ratcheting up of tension was brilliantly done. Catton is the queen of plot and pace.
Several reviewers mentioned a Lee Child connection and I agree (from my one Jack Reacher read). It reminded me of Eleanor's Books that made me interview in 2018:
My comfort read
I’m always happy with a Jack Reacher.
But you don't need a review from me, this is likely the most reviewed New Zealand book in eons!
Birnam Wood, reviewed
"The novel wears its ecothriller label well, and fans of Lee Child won’t be disappointed to read it either. The plotting is taut, the transgressions fascinating and intriguing, and like any good Jack Reacher novel, it’s got henchmen in black SUVs, guns, car chases, military mercenaries, and people who can make phone calls that get things taken care of, no questions asked."
Eleanor Catton, by Rachael King ReadingRoom
Catton asks the question, what is the good global citizen when corruption and complicity are bedfellows in the form of self-interested nihilist and self-satisfied do-gooder? Here, New Zealand is her test-case and laboratory. The wild is totally overrun and "crawling with drones", so there is no wild, just territory to be monetised, while indigeneity is minimalised.
Eleanor Catton: ‘Power, class, and money David Eggleton, ReadingRoom
The need to be dominate, to be liked, to wreak revenge, all will out with devastating consequences in Birnam Wood.
Eleanor Catton: ‘ferocious and analytical’ Miro Bilbrough, ReadingRoom
When I began reading Birnam Wood I started to asterisk sentences that stood out to me as leggy, multi-parenthetic, joyrides of perfection. After the first few pages I realised that the book would soon become a constellation of blazing stars.
Birnam Wood review: An astounding analysis of human psychology Claire Mabey, The Spinoff
Birnam Wood’s message, underlined in blood-red ink by its extraordinary conclusion, is that these attempts to shape a gentler form of capitalism are doomed to failure.
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton review – the root of all evil Alex Preston, The Observer
“Birnam Wood” ’s biggest twist is not so much a particular event as the realization that this is a book in which everything that people choose to do matters, albeit not in ways they may have anticipated.
Eleanor Catton wants plot to matter again B.D. McLay, The New Yorker
More Eleanor Catton
Find books by Eleanor Catton in our collection
- Eleanor Catton: The dark agendas that led to her new novel Philip Matthews, Stuff, 11 February 2023
- 'Going online is not an innocent act' - Eleanor Catton on how technology is changing us RNZ Saturday Morning 11 February 2023
- Eleanor Catton ReadNZ