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Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton

Thankfully, there are still interesting and enticing books out there. This new one from Catton is just that. It takes place on New Zealand’s South Island and is based around a gardening collective, Birnam Wood, and an American billionaire. There are relationship dynamics that cut to the very heart of human interaction, introspection, and internal greed. Once there is dissent within the group of Birnam Wood and the chance meeting with a pompous billionaire in an area of the island closed off from town due to a previous landslide, you know the critical components begin to lay themselves out and prepared for conflict. The back and forth between Mira and Shelly and the power struggle; Tony – a founding member of BW who left and is back after many years, a wanna-be writer that gets the scoop of a lifetime and a chance to affirm his principles; the sellers of the land that billionaire Robert Lemoine desires – who recently were knighted by the NZ Order of Merit; Robert decides to fund the collective.. your mind begins to run through scenarios; vanity, greed, lies, one’s principles.. they are at play here with all the main characters. Their inner principles are tainted by the greed of power, of finance, and their minds run every which way – most of them, if not all, for self-interest. And then, an accident, someone dies, and things really get interesting… with more lies, deception, with treason – capitalist degradation on monumental levels… all leading to the crescendo on the very last page. The lasting impression – what Catton writes, what her mind places on the written page, in the end, is human truth.


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