After reading a review of Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal, I had to have it. What better way to experience a psychological Gothic thriller than to listen to the British intonations of reader Penelope Rawlins. The hairs on the back of my neck tingled as soon as she started – “My pulse raced as I traipsed through the silent forest…” But, as the plot gained momentum, listening was just too slow for me. I downloaded the book to Kindle, using the convenient cloud feature to switch back and forth from reading to listening on Audible.
Secrets are the catalyst; the cautious telling is punctuated with surprising revelations and a nod to Bronte’s Jane Eyre with Sigurd, the brooding handsome landlord with a mysterious past, and Allis, the fragile yet determined heroine. As the story escalates, the outcome seems predictable, yet the ending is still a shocker.
After being caught in an affair with her married boss (how they get caught is one of the funniest sections of the book), Allis Hagtorn, a television newscaster, travels to a new job as a housekeeper and gardener on an isolated fjord to recover and atone. Her new employer has Rochester moments of attraction, and eventually the two become lovers. Suspicion lingers in the air with clues from the nasty shopkeeper’s innuendo to the gulls who attack Allis in a scene right out of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Although the translation offers some strange substitutions in the narration, the author is quick to supply contextual meanings, and the story is great fun – whether you hear it or read it.