Book excerpt: “Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Eleanor Catton’s “Birnam Wood” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the latest novel by the Booker Prize-winning author of “The Luminaries,” is a thriller set in New Zealand pitting radical environmentalists and a scheming billionaire.

Read an excerpt below:

“Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton (Hardcover)

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Mira’s first thought, on coming home to the empty flat, had been that Shelley had finally done it: packed up all her things and left, without warning, and without a note. After calling Shelley’s name and hearing no reply, she had stood in the open doorway for several seconds, reconciling herself to the new though long-expected reality of Shelley being gone – before her vision clarified and she saw that Shelley’s bike was still in the laundry, and her shoes were still piled beneath the radiator, and her beloved bomber jacket was still hanging on its coat hook in the hall. Feeling foolish, Mira hastily revised her thought to wonder, instead, if some sudden emergency had taken Shelley from the house … But if that were the case, then wouldn’t she have called – or texted, at the very least?

She remembered suddenly the location tracker app that they had both installed some months ago, and never used. She got out her phone to check if the connection was still active, but in the brief time it took for the device to fetch Shelley’s data from whatever configuration of satellites and local masts were coordinating her position, she grew ashamed of the intrusion, and exited the map before it fully loaded, reproaching herself that it was no wonder Shelley had been feeling smothered, and wondering, not for the first time, when exactly she had become so technologically dependent that her first instinct in every unpredicted circumstance was to outsource her imagination to her phone.

Two weeks had passed since she had first divined that Shelley wanted out of Birnam Wood, and for two weeks she had been paralysed by the same mute and stricken helplessness that she had felt when her parents first announced their separation – chiding herself, as she had then, that at her age and state of independence it was absurd that she should feel so childishly forsaken, and so sad.

Excerpted from “Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2023 by Eleanor Catton. All rights reserved.

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“Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton (Hardcover)

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  • “Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), in Hardcover, Large Print, eBook and Audio formats

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