Birnam Wood

Eleanor Catton

Birnam Wood
Granta Books
United Kingdom
14 May 2024

Birnam Wood

Eleanor Catton

Birnam Wood is on the move...

A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass in New Zealand's South Island, cutting off the town of Thorndike, leaving a sizable farm abandoned. The disaster presents an opportunity for 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 propulsive literary thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama and immersion in character. It is a brilliantly constructed tale of intentions, actions and consequences, and an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.


It has almost been a decade since Eleanor Catton published her Booker Prize-winning, epic, historical, astrological magnum opus The Luminaries, and I have been waiting with bated breath ever since. Unsatisfied with resting on her laurels, Birnam Wood is a different beast entirely.

Shelley Noakes wants out of Birnam Wood. And no, she isn’t stuck in a sub-par production of Macbeth. Birnam Wood is a not-for-profit gardening co-operative with philanthropic and eco-activist goals that, mainly, illegally plants veggies on other people’s properties. After building up years of resentment against the founder of Birnam Wood and her best frenemy, the charismatic and egotistical Mira Bunting, Shelley is ready for a more conventional lifestyle.

That is until Mira returns from a head-clearing, garden-hunting trip with some big news. American billionaire Robert Lemoine is eager to fund their tiny Kiwi operation and he has just the space for it: a plot of land near the town of Thorndike, cut off from outside influence by a recent landslide, where he is currently building his end-of-days bunker. Against the better judgment of Tony Gallo, Mira’s #notallmen past flame, Birnam Wood aligns itself with the eccentric billionaire and the seemingly abandoned farm.

But all is not as it seems. The land is actually owned by newly knighted Sir and Lady Darvish, who are becoming increasingly suspicious of their new business partner, Lemoine.

Described by the publisher as an eco-thriller, Birnam Wood establishes Catton as an artist unafraid to take her readers down dark and strange new paths. Not much could prepare you for a Catton-read. Expect the unexpected. And be thrilled along the way.

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