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The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

The Bird Tribunal

Crime / Mystery   Thriller / Suspense   Family Drama   Maxim Jakubowski's Selection   eBook Favourites   Relationship Stories   Scandinavian Crime   
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A Maxim Jakubowski selected title.

Some books are claustrophobic as they isolate their characters in a constricted setting, but Norwegian crime author Ravatn achieves the curious exploit of making a novel mostly set in the vast open air of the fjords claustrophobic as its two sole characters (aside from just a couple of outside 'extras') stew, fight, love and so much more in a cabin by a lake under the wide open sky. Allis, a journalist in disgrace, seeks a new life as a cook, gardener and helper with Sigurd, a taciturn older man who owns a cabin in a remote region of Norway, and whose wife is mysteriously absent. The psychological cat and mouse game is gripping as they clash, repel and attract and questions soon are raised about their previous lives and how past events will affect their future together or apart. Intense, lapidary, dream-like and streaked with anxiety, this is not a comfortable book, with not always likeable obsessive characters, but it proves rewarding as an investigation into the blank darkness of lost souls. ~ Maxim Jakubowski

One of our Books of the Year 2016.

The Lovereading view...

A subtle, quietly sinister tale, where the tension slowly creeps and coils around the edge of your understanding. Allis removes herself from her previous life to become a housekeeper for Sigurd. On the edge of a fjord in a lonely existence, can Allis make sense of her life and reveal the secrets that cloak the house? Agnes Ravatn hasn't used quotation marks, this creates an intimacy with the words, yet they somehow echo with desolate intensity. The translation by Rosie Hedger is perfectly and completely in tune with the story. Gradually, slowly and almost silently, information is revealed, which kept me on the edge of my seat. ‘The Bird Tribunal’ unsettles, agitates and unnerves before a fierce concentrated rush of drama filled pages… and yet at the end, I detected a whisper of uncertainty floating in my mind, which actually left me feeling very satisfied indeed with this enthralling read. ~ Liz Robinson

A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...
I had my eye on The Bird Tribunal for quite some time before I was in a position to acquire rights to publish in English, and I watched it win countless awards in its native Norway and go on to be made into a stage play. When a reader’s report and then the fabulous translation came in, I was not disappointed. It is one of the most captivating, tense, dramatic thrillers I have read in years. With only two characters and a Rebecca-esque plotline, it is beautifully written, with the isolated Norwegian fjord and the gardens of the solitary house situated there exquisitely described, and the sense of foreboding, the slow building of tension, the trickle of insights into the characters and the secrets they are hiding, make it an exceptional read. It’s already won an English PEN Translation Award, and been chosen for WHSmith’s Fresh Talent for the Autumn, and I could not be prouder to publish a book that takes Nordic Noir to fabulous new heights and marks the arrival of a major new talent in the genre. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books

Click here to read a Q&A with this author.

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The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape...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...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.


Praise for Agnes Ravatn:

‘One of the most compelling and unusual stories I’ve ever read … it sucks you in until you are desperate to know what’s going to happen’ Louise Voss

‘Chilling, atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful … I was transfixed by this book’ Amanda Jennings

‘Intriguing … enrapturing’ Sarah Hilary

‘A beautifully written story set in a captivating landscape that keeps you turning the pages’ Sarah Ward

‘A taut and compulsive story of obsession and control, and of fears real and imagined. Intense and beautifully written, the book is cut through with a sense of creeping dread; Sigurd Bagge is a colossus of a character, one you cannot tear your eyes away from. A masterclass in suspense and delayed terror, reading it felt like I was driving at top speed towards a cliff edge – and not once did I want to take my foot off the pedal’ Rod Reynolds

‘An eerie Norwegian psychological thriller with claustrophobic unease that seeps out of every page, The Bird Tribunal isn’t just about the words on the page, but also what’s between the lines, with a flood of emotions bubbling under the surface. I read most of the book in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from the powerful emotional pull of the haunting prose. I was aware of my heart pounding, actually holding my breath in places, and an unsettling tingling sensation on my skin’ Off-the-Shelf Books

‘One of the most unsettling books I’ve read in a long time … menacing, chilling and threatening in equal measure. Every turn of the page brings the reader closer to the unexpectedly gripping finale, which will leave you breathless. Disturbing, cold and completely unnerving, I could not put it down. All the stars. Exceptional!’ Bibliophile Book Club

About the Author

Agnes Ravatn

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 premiered in Oslo in 2015.

Click here to read a Q&A with this author.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2016


Agnes Ravatn

More books by Agnes Ravatn
Author 'Like for Like'


Orenda Books


220 pages


Crime / Mystery
Thriller / Suspense
Family Drama
Maxim Jakubowski's Selection
eBook Favourites
Relationship Stories
Scandinavian Crime

Thriller / suspense
Crime & mystery



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