Eleanor Catton's new book: Billionaire survivalists and guerrilla gardeners

by Russell Baillie / 15 March, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton. Photo/David White

The Man Booker Prize-winner's forthcoming novel will be less than half the length of The Luminaries.​

Eleanor Catton’s next novel will be a tale of guerrilla gardening and the world’s rich using New Zealand as a bolthole.

To be titled Birnam Wood, the book is described as a psychological thriller set in a remote part of New Zealand where rich foreigners have armed themselves in fortress-like homes in anticipation of a global catastrophe.

The book takes its name from the “guerrilla gardening squad” at the centre of the story – “a ragtag group of quarrelling leftists who move about the country cultivating other people's land”, says a statement from Victoria University Press which has bought the New Zealand rights to the book.

The group’s 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.”

In a November interview with Paperboy, Catton hinted at the survivalist and environmentalist themes of the book.

“I find survivalists very tiresome. I think there is a lot of misanthropy in a lot of environmentalism that I find really grates on me. I don’t like the stance that human beings are evil, and this kind of arrogance that you’re going to be the one who survives, and lord it over all the stupid people.”

VUP published Catton’s debut novel The Rehearsal and her 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries.

Catton’s book has been sold on outline with Granta, which published The Luminaries in Britain and Australia acquiring the rights for those territories again.

Birnam Wood is due to be delivered to the publishers at the end of this year, with a proposed length of 80,000-100,000 words. The Luminaries, which Catton has been adapting for a television series, was nearly 270,000 words.

The new novel’s plot seems timely with reports of wealthy Americans like billionaire and Trump advisor Peter Thiel buying land in New Zealand’s southern lakes areas and a rise in applications for NZ citizenship by American migrants.

Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Rapper-turned-author Tourettes writes a book about his old Auckland life
Aucklander Anne Coney farewells a fabulous art collection 40 years in the making
How a brush with death inspired veteran sports journalist Phil Gifford to health
75293 2017-06-29 00:00:00Z Health

How a brush with death inspired veteran sports jou…

by Donna Chisholm

Phil Gifford has switched codes with this month’s publication of a health guide for men. As Donna Chisholm reports, he’s well qualified for the job.

Read more
All Black coach Nic Gill on how to start a get-fit regime
75295 2017-06-29 00:00:00Z Health

All Black coach Nic Gill on how to start a get-fit…

by Nic Gill

It takes care and planning. All Black strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill explains how to start a get-fit regime in middle age.

Read more
What Kyle and Jordy did next: A week in the life of Culprit
72556 2017-06-29 00:00:00Z Dining

What Kyle and Jordy did next: A week in the life o…

by Leisha Jones

You won’t find beef fillet or pork belly on the menu at Culprit, the inner-city Top 50 restaurant where secondary cuts are favoured.

Read more
Six new Auckland eateries that will make you want to eat out
75671 2017-06-29 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Six new Auckland eateries that will make you want …

by Paperboy

Check out Auckland's latest new openings: from wood-fired Peking duck at contemporary Chinese restaurant Huami to a taste of the Netherlands.

Read more
Why great cycle paths are the way to end Auckland's traffic woes
75682 2017-06-29 00:00:00Z Urbanism

Why great cycle paths are the way to end Auckland'…

by Bianca Zander

A solution to Auckland’s traffic crisis is arriving – and it’s two-wheeled.

Read more
Transforming Auckland for the America's Cup