Being the youngest winner of the Booker Prize comes with an inevitable disadvantage What can you do to top this? In the case of Eleanor Catton, who was 28 when she hit this achievement with her first book, the Luminaries which was published 2013 was the year of her triumph. Her concern was not so much that she’d write an inferior product and more about how her awe-inspiring status would keep her from harsh truths. “I was scared,” she says, “that people wouldn’t let me know whether my next novel was not a success!”She shouldn’t have to be worried.
Her novel of the moment, Birnam Wood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 7 March) Already, it has received real praise–in a star review, Kirkus calls it a “blistering review of the horrors of capitalism in the last decade that is also an extremely enjoyable reading.” The novel is set in the author’s home country of New Zealand, the novel is about the guerilla gardening organization called Birnam Wood that grows crops on land that is not being used but only occasionally with permission, and then donates surplus crops to the local population. Their idealistic young founder, Mira Bunting, hears about acres of fertile soil separated from the rest of the rest of the world due to an earthquake and landslide that occurred recently in New Zealand’s South Island, their mission could be in the process of being boosted.
The Doomsteader Robert Lemoine, an American billionaire who just bought the land, gives the group $100,000 to cultivate it , while he creates an eco-friendly bolt hole for himself underground. He receives do-gooding credentials towards the kind of citizenship he’s seeking as well as credibility and profit. This is a win-win! But, in reality the reality is far more complex than they appear and potentially explosive outcomes are in the near future.
The novel’s concept “came from the political turmoil of 2016. Donald Trump, the Brexit vote,” explains Catton, talking via Zoom out of her house at Cambridge, England. “The collective shame was present and the fear of the uncertainty of the future. If you had said”50 years from today, x, y or z’, there was almost certainly someone in the room that would be saying, ‘If the universe exists at all. It seemed to be this sense of the finality coming towards us.”
She decided to revisit Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
“The play is all about prophecy. Witches inform Macbeth that he’ll become King, and that he’s safe until Birnam Wood arrives at Dunsinane ….When the offer someone a sense certainty about what’s to come, they can kind often create the in the future.” the actress says. “I began to think, maybe there’s a book where every person would be driven and be aiming for the future, enticed by the promise of certainty in the same way Macbeth did.”
Birnam Wood‘s Mira For instance, she could almost touch the more green and more equitable world she’s creating. Lemoine is focused on his wellbeing and safety and a discontented activist known as Tony is a bit suspicious of the situation when Lemoine is concerned. Lemoine also sees himself in glory when he learns the truth and write about the situation. “I wanted readers to go to believe that the other person was at fault and that everyone else was innocent,” Catton says, “but slowly , the culpability of the characters becomes apparent to you. Nobody believes they’re the villain This is the same for the current political climate. There’s a lot of people who can identify Macbeth-like characteristics in others, but it’s not us.”
She’d be delighted she Birnam Wood “provokes an exchange of ideas,” she says, regarding climate change and land stewardship, inequalityand technological threats. However, she wasn’t planning to create a manifesto “I believe that we shouldn’t confuse art with action.” Instead she joined her ideas to an irresistibly enthralling story. “I wanted to generate the desire to know what’s going to happen in the next chapter that is what drives an action thriller.”
If the story’s action doesn’t grab your attention the characters’ nuanced personalities will. Inspired by Jane Austen, Catton wrote Emma for screen in the year 2020. The novel dives deep into the bond among Mira and her skeptic second-in-command, Shelley Noakes. “Mira along with Shelley have a wonderful relationship,” Catton says, “but I was hoping they would betray one the other. A story can be sad when two individuals could be really great for one another.”
In the home of Cambridge in the city in which Catton lives with her husband Steven Toussaint, a fellow writer, and their infant daughter, there’s always a lot of discussion on the characters that the writers in residence are creating. “It was particularly enjoyable to write this novel because it’s character-driven,” Catton says. “We’d be arguing over the idea that one would be doing this or that, and they were just like us. My husband would come up with an idea, and I’d be so angry at him! There were lots of tears and arguments, as well as joyful conversations.”
One thing that the couple doesn’t have to discuss is what shows to see on Netflix. “Thrillers,” Catton says. “It’s the only genre in film that we’re always able to agree on.” It’s also one she’s determined to stay when writing her own work. She’s currently working on the next book “a thriller that’s more psychological suspenseful thriller with a suspect Narrator” according to her description. “When it’s done correctly,” she says, “a thriller can be appealing to both the brain as well as your heart.”