Having heard a lot of great things about it, I was very excited to take part in the blog tour for The Bird Tribunal by Norwegian writer Agnes Ravatn. Translated into English by Rosie Hedger, this is a wonderfully written psychological thriller about two people and the secrets they carry with them.
‘I sat there, perfectly still and silent, afraid to make a sound. I could hear nothing from the floor below my own.’
From the very first page I was captivated by this story of two people who seem worlds apart, who are thrown together in unusual circumstances. Allis Hagtorn is a television presenter who has left her career and her partner behind her in a voluntary exile. She finds employment as a housekeeper and gardener despite not being particularly green-fingered. And in addition to the questions raised surrounding Allis’ decision to leave her old life behind, there is an air of mystery to her new employer. Sigurd Bagge is a silent, private man who seems to be keeping things close to his chest. He employs Allis to help with the running of his home and gardens as he awaits the return of his wife who is on her travels. I was fascinated by these characters, and keen to find out more about each of them, and what secrets they are trying to conceal, or run away from.
‘I had never had a strategy to protect myself against melancholy, I didn’t have the first clue how to defend myself.’
It was interesting to see the relationship between Allis and Sigurd develop, and it was something of an odd pairing with the two coming from different backgrounds. But in Sigurd’s home in an isolated fjord in Norway their relationship starts to change as the pair start to adapt and adjust to one and others company. With every turn of a page I would wonder what was going to happen next, and there was a feeling of unease throughout due to their often strange encounters. This made me question further what had happened in the past, and how this may influence the future for this unlikely new partnership. This suspense and tension is exacerbated by the chilling setting, and I found this to be a very atmospheric story. From the way Sigurd’s home is described, to the depiction of the surrounding landscape, to the local cuisine, this was beautifully written and helped to create an image of this beautiful, eerie place. This is a relatively short novel, at fewer than 200 pages, yet it contains so much in the way of tension and psychological drama. It was a book I struggled to put down and as I eagerly waited for secrets to be revealed the story built up to a dramatic conclusion that I never suspected.
‘The sight of him was like a knife to the heart. Not because he wanted to be alone, but because of the way he had gone about it. There he sat, by himself in the darkness, mining the depths of his own soul.’
I loved The Bird Tribunal and found it to be a compelling, atmospheric thriller set within a dramatic and isolated landscape. It is a story of secrets and truths and how we seek atonement for past actions.
The Bird Tribunal was published on 1st September 2016 by Orenda Books. Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing a copy for review.
This review features as part of the blog tour for The Bird Tribunal. You can follow the rest of the tour on the dates and blogs below: