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Birnam Wood cover art

Birnam Wood

By: Eleanor Catton
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2023 Granta Books (P)2023 Audible, Ltd.

What listeners say about Birnam Wood

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

A real page turner

That’s not something you can usually say about a NZ book. Usually I find NZ books weighted down by too much self consciously “literary” stylings. The dead hand of creative writing courses showing through too obviously. I found the Luminaries a complex slog while admiring it enormously I found it hard going. Impressive and ambitious. This book is quite a different beast, entertaining and fast paced as well as set in a recognisably complex modern world that doesn’t make you roll your eyes. The characters are very recognisably kiwi and the American billionaire is an actual person rather than a bunch of cliches. Catton wears her research and talent lightly - to me the mark of a really good writer - she’s not trying too hard to impress the reader. The use of the trendy and - in my view - essentially meaningless phrase “late capitalism” several times did make me roll my eyes and the overall story reminds of the late period my beloved le carre where he became somewhat of a conspiracist, where shadowy forces are secretly controlling things - yawn. But like Le Carre Catton is not afraid to entertain us while trying to say something important and tell
Am exciting story with flesh and blood characters. Really ambitious and different and very well done.

Excellent audiobook production, good reader and although the American accent wasn’t bad it still fell into the “John Wayne western” mode of American representation that mars practically every audiobook read by any non-American. There were a few Americanisms added in which I found interesting - “RV” is not a common usage here nor is ameticinophen much used here. But these are quibbles there are many Maori words and NZ expressions.

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4 people found this helpful

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Hmmm…

Eleanor Catton really likes words, and utilizes the English alphabet like a whirlpool, turning turning turning.
One billionaire, one rich knight, one wife, two young women and one man are at one point or another are all in the same place, without knowing. Under the southern skies, bodies are piling up , guilt is mounting, mayhem, madness and misery have arrived.
Brilliance… in irksome characters.
Fabulous listen thank you Eleanor Catton, much appreciated. :-)

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2 people found this helpful

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Great story, great narration

A real page turner, lots of twists and turns, awesome to hear a story set in Aotearoa. Narrator did a great job with all the different characters. Highly recommend

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Gripping storyline

Very clever and compelling storyline. Relative characters and a twist ot two to boot. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

profetic writing

lots of twists and turns and the plot points feel very topical for current discussions on climate issues.

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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Boring

It’s was boring, monotonous and just not a good read. Some of the characters were awful and rambled on.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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The ideas presented

Excellent narration and a must for every New Zealander. I think most people would be engrossed.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

First part cool then pretty dumb

A book about light-hearted eco-terrorism set in NZ? Doomsday billionaire villains! Sounds cool!

I was really entranced with the first half of this book. There was some interesting character development and great conversations about left/right wing politics (and identity politics generally). I was interested in the organisation and their objectives (despite how were they quite hazy). While I was keen, I did think it was odd that the characters really didn’t seem to like each other, despite being part of a collective.

Then, as Act 2 unfolds, the novel shifts from an intellectual foray to more of a standard thriller. While the thriller aspect would work the author makes the error of introducing a billionaire character who is basically god-like powerful. This raises a lot of ‘why wouldn’t he pay them off and walk away?’’ issues. As he hatches his plan (and readjusts accordingly), the characters become steadily more irritating. And the decisions they may become incomprehensible. I wondered to myself who am I really rooting for here? Then the tone of the book becomes downright soap opera… leading to a climax that made me roll my eyes.

In short, the first half was cool. The second half not so much.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A tall tale well told

Saskia Maarleveld’s narration’s wonderful! I struggled to get into the print version but thanks to Saskia I enjoyed this one after all.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A great plot brilliantly narrated.

It was a slow start for me nearly put it down, but then it just got better and better and better. One of the best narrations I’ve ever heard - very believable Highly recommend!

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