Eleanor Catton’s New Novel a Psychological Thriller
Eleanor Catton, the youngest ever Booker-prize winning author, has sold the rights to her third novel, a psychological thriller set in rural New Zealand where super-rich foreigners face off with ragtag locals on the eve of a global catastrophe, the Guardian’s Eleanor Ainge Roy reports.
According to Catton’s agent, Caroline Dawnay, the novel, entitled Birnam Wood (a reference to a scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) is set in a remote part of the country where the mega-wealthy have stored caches of weapons in fortress-like homes in preparation for disaster.
Described as a “psychological thriller”, the novel follows the guerrilla gardening outfit Birnam Wood, a group of quarrelling leftists who move about the country cultivating other people’s land.
Their chance encounter with an American billionaire sparks a tragic sequence of events which questions, ultimately, how far each of us would go to ensure our own survival – and at what cost.
Fergus Barrowman, publisher of Victoria University Press in Wellington said a six-figure advance was signed with Catton – the largest sum he has ever paid for the work of a New Zealand author.
Barrowman signed the deal after reading a 20-page outline of Catton’s planned novel, and called the plot “archetypal” and “pacy”.
“Ellie told me a while ago she was reading Lee Child and I see that in there, but also with all of her imagination and ethical concerns and ability to conjure up magic,” he said.
“I have total confidence in her as a writer and a person and the book she is going to write.”
The planned new novel will showcase a change in style for Auckland-based Catton, and will be less than half the size of The Luminaries at 80,000-100,000 words.
Catton, 31, won the Booker Prize for The Luminaries, an epic historical saga set during the New Zealand gold rush, in 2013.
A BBC adaption of The Luminaries written by Catton is due to begin filming on the West Coast this year.
Original article by Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian, March 15, 2017.
Photo by Martin Godwin.