Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood Does the Improbable

“Eleanor Catton’s third novel, Birnam Wood, is a big book, a sophisticated page-turner, that does something improbable: It filters anarchist, monkeywrenching environmental politics, a generational (anti-baby boomer) cri de coeur and a downhill-racing plot through a Stoppardian sense of humour. The result is thrilling. Birnam Wood nearly made me laugh with pleasure. The whole thing crackles, like hair drawn through a pocket comb,” New York Times critic Dwight Garner writes.

“Catton has felt like the real thing out of the gate. One reason is her way with dialogue. Her characters are almost disastrously candid,” Garner notes.

“Catton is at home in the physical world, and her details land. (In Birnam Wood her scrimping gardeners strew hair-salon clippings as slug repellent.) Her books move sure-footedly, as if on gravel paths, between microclimates.

“Writing a novel is not unlike tending a garden, and Birnam Wood becomes a kind of serpentine pastoral. Catton has a naturalist’s eye, and she traces her character’s streams of perception when their fingers are in the dirt, tinkering with the photosynthesizing world.”

Catton, 37, won the 2013 Booker Prize for The Luminaries. She lives in Cambridge.

Original article by Dwight Garner, The New York Times, March 13, 2023.

Illustration by Deena So Oteh.

Tags: Birnam Wood  Eleanor Catton  New York Times (The)  

Pirate Comedy Deserves Another Season

Pirate Comedy Deserves Another Season

Cancelled after two season, Taika Waititi’s “silly comedy” Our Flag Means Death “deserves one more voyage”, according to Radio Times critic George White. “ was meant to be sacred…