Today we are back to our Year of Orenda feature and this time Mandie has a review of The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn. I adored this book, so mystical, so atmospheric and beautifully written that thinking about it still leaves me speechless. You can read my mad and rambling review right here, but read on to see what Mandie thought.
About the Book
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.
As with most of the Orenda catalogue I am way behind on discovering this absolute gem of a book. Whilst there are those that will question why it has taken me so long, I actually see this as a good thing as whilst they have to wait for each new publication, I have plenty to choose from.
Allis Hagtorn has answered an ad from Sigurd Bagge to become a housekeeper/gardener at a time when her own life has imploded, and she feels the need to withdraw from it and her husband. She believes that his (Bagge’s) wife is travelling, and she will be there until her return. As the story progresses it is revealed that this may not be the whole truth and that Sigurd has been keeping secrets of his own.
Now to the hard part, writing my review. This is not down to the fact that I didn’t like the book as I really did. It’s not like anything else I have read to date but it did leave me wondering how I was going to put words on a page that would truly do it justice. At only 185 pages it is not a long book, but each one of those pages draws you in to a story that is completely and utterly fascinating. With no distinguishable conversations, you are never sure if Allis is remembering things that happened or if we are witnessing it as it happens. There is no sense of time or season. Unless Allis makes reference to it, you are so absorbed in the telling of the story that you have no idea of how long she has been there for, and the lack of chapter headings adds to this. Somehow this just works and if someone had not mentioned it to me, I probably wouldn’t have noticed as I was so engrossed in what I was reading.
Throughout the book you get the feeling that all is not right with Sigurd, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. Just as you think you understand, you are thrown completely off base with new discoveries. The seclusion of the setting and the fact that this story is about Allis and Sigurd with very little interaction from other characters complement each other, all adding up to an ending that is wholly unexpected.
If you are looking for a book that is different and maybe a little challenging, then The Bird Tribunal should be high on your list of MBR (must be read) books.
About the Author
Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. She made her literary debut with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjoldisiplin), 2014. In these works Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), 2013, is a strange and captivating story about shame, guilt and atonement. Ravatn received The cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to The Youth’s Critic’s Prize. The Bird Tribunal was also made into a successful play, which premièred in Oslo in 2015.
Books by Agnes Ravatn