#BibliomaniacsBookClub November 2017 #TheBirdTribunal



The Bird Tribunal was published by Orenda Books in September 2016


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.

What struck me the most about The Bird Tribunal is how distinctive and unusual it is. There are definitely some echoes of "The Collector", or perhaps even "The Woman in Black" or "Misery", lurking deep, deep within the shadows of this story, but Ravatn has produced a novel that feels unique and extraordinary. The voice is original and the premise is unnerving and chilling in a way that hadn't unnerved or chilled me for a while.

The prose is sparse, the writing stripped back so that every single word carries weight, atmosphere, tension and intrigue. It is beautifully understated. The entire novel takes place at the remote location of Bagge's house, on an isolated fjord which immediately creates a sense of vulnerability. Even though Allis is desperate to escape her 'real life' and hide away in the depths of the countryside, there is something too isolating, too remote and too cut off about this house to make it feel safe. There is something unbearably intense about the setting and this is also shown through the fact that the whole novel is centred around Bagge and Allis only. Ravatn has achieved something remarkable in that she is able to sustain the tension, plot and characters for the entire 220 pages with only two people on stage and such little external interaction. This book takes place in the present - although there are a few references to the past, there are no flashbacks or subsequent narrative voices to supplement the prose; this is just Allis, Bagge and the fjord.

The book is so absorbing that it is impossible to extract yourself from the pages, the characters or from the place it takes you to. What I found most engaging about this novel, and what I think proves Ravatn to be a unique and exceptionally talented writer, is that it wasn't that this book was a page turner; it wasn't that it was an action packed plot driven thriller, it wasn't that the characters were always likeable, sympathetic or emitting a sense of peril and pity, but there was something incredibly fascinating about the story. There was something about it that completely bewitched me. I wasn't always sure whether it was black magic or white magic that had cast such a spell on me, but this book is without doubt, unputdownable.



1. How convincing did you find the premise of the novel? How does Ravatn ensure we “buy in” to the idea that Allis would take a job as a housekeeper in the middle of nowhere?

2. What are your feelings towards Allis? Did they change at any points in the novel?

3. How far is Allis in control of her situation and position in the house? How responsible is she for her situation and what happens at the end of the book?

4. What was your reaction to the graphic scenes with the tits, gulls and rats? Why are they important in the plot?

5. There is no speech punctuation in the novel. What effect does that have on the reader and the atmosphere of the novel? Did it bother you?

6. This work has been translated. What questions might you ask the translator about this novel and their involvement with it?

7. Allis refers to Bagge as a ‘wolf ‘ on several occasions. Is this an effective metaphor?

8. Allis dreams of a “bird tribunal”. Why has the author chosen this as the title of the book?

9. What happened to the shopkeeper?

10. There are several references to Nordic Mythology in the book and words such as “Nithing”. Why has Ravatn used these references to ancient beasts and heroes in a book set in very contemporary times? What does it add to the novel?

11. What do you think were the key themes in the book?

12. What are your reactions to the ending of the novel? What do you think happens next?


Dark MatterThe Small Hand and DollyThe Little StrangerThe CollectorMisery


Agnes Ravatn

To find out more about Agnes Ravatn you can check out her profile here:

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk


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