nut free nerd

thoughts of a nut allergic book lover

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

“A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize–winning author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both influences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. A brilliantly constructed study of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is a mesmerizing, unflinching consideration of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.” {read more here}

Copy gifted to me by FSG Books.

Birnam Wood is unliked anything I’ve read in a long time. I don’t usually read thrillers, but I was intrigued by this one’s premise: Macbeth meets climate change meets shady billionaire funding an underground environmental activist group. This novel has the air of a tragedy from the very beginning — you get the sense that it’s just not going to end well.

The narrative structure of this book is fascinating. Rather than use conventional chapters, Catton has structured the story in a handful of “acts,” like a play. Within each act the omniscient narrator hops around to different characters, focusing through one perspective at a time. But even when we we’re told the story through the eyes of a specific character, Catton is careful to not reveal their full motivations, leaving the reader with only a glimpse of the complete picture. Her dialogue reads like transcripts of actual conversations — she captures the cadence and tone of speech so well.

While the first half of this book is a little slow, by the time I reached the second half I couldn’t stop reading. I read the last 150 pages all in one sitting because I just had to know how it would end. The way Catton brought all of the characters and story lines together unexpectedly was brilliant. So many threads converged in a way that I never saw coming.

Thrillers aren’t my favorite genre, but I really enjoyed getting hooked into the suspense and mystery of this one. There’s so much to unpack in this novel: discussions on class, wealth, climate change, New Zealand politics and culture, technology, privacy and surveillance, journalism and the media, etc. This would be an excellent book club read, or a book to read with a group of friends. I’m very much looking forward to reading more by Catton.

Are you a big fan of thrillers? Have any that you would recommend? I’d love to know.

Take care xx


2 responses to “Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton”

  1. This sounds absolutely amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Would definitely recommend!

      Liked by 1 person

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About ME, Holly

former english major, current twenty-something book lover, allergic to nuts. drop me a line at or on instagram.


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