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Eleanor Catton in Conversation

International prize-winner and South Island storyteller Eleanor Catton makes her long awaited return to Ōtautahi Christchurch to celebrate her eco-thriller novel Birnam Wood. Expect a wide-ranging conversation as Catton chats with former WORD Programme Director Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) for one special night at The Aurora Centre, 7pm Wednesday 24 May.

Catton made history in 2013 when, aged 28, she became the then-youngest winner of the Booker Prize for her bracingly original novel The Luminaries. Ten years later comes the hotly anticipated Birnam Wood, which firmly reinforces her place as a remarkable talent with three strikingly different yet meticulously crafted novels, all with strong links to the South Island. 

A novel as topical as it is page-turning, Birnam Wood begins with a landslide in the fictional Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike, and leaving a sizable farm abandoned. This land offers an opportunity to Birnam Wood, a guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. But they hadn’t figured on the enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine, who also has an interest in the place. It’s a book that nearly all reviewers seemingly couldn’t put down.


While this is a pacey page-turner, it is multi-dimensional, with intelligence gleaming on every page. And it’s also bitingly funny.


The novel wears its ecothriller label well, and fans of Lee Child won’t be disappointed to read it either. The plotting is taut, the transgressions fascinating and intriguing, and like any good Jack Reacher novel, it’s got henchmen in black SUVs, guns, car chases, military mercenaries…


As well as the many awards garnered for The Luminaries (2013), Catton’s debut novel, The Rehearsal (2009), won the New Zealand Best First Book of Fiction Award and the Betty Trask Prize, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize. As a screenwriter, she adapted The Luminaries for television, and Jane Austen’s Emma for feature film. Born in 1985 in Canada and raised in New Zealand, she lives in Britain.

In association with Auckland Writers Festival, Verb Wellington and Te Herenga Waka University Press.  Books available to purchase on the night from UBS.


Eleanor Catton
Wednesday, 24 May
The Aurora Centre 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm $29 / $23
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