The Bird Tribunal – Agnes Ravatn
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.
My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy
The Bird Tribunal is a remarkable read and at no point in the story did I know where it was heading, I just knew that I wanted to keep reading to learn more.
There is mystery around Allis. She has left a successful career to take up a housekeeping and gardener role. She has no previous experience but is prepared to learn as she goes. Her employer, Sigurd Bagge, is a strange man who hides himself away through the day and only initially comes out to speak with Allis at mealtimes. He will not let her eat with him and he is extremely secretive, choosing not to share any personal information with Allis. It seems he is married, however, his wife is absent and there is no sign she will return.
Allis is determined to make a success of her new role despite the peculiarity of her employer but she is facing her own personal demons. As The Bird Tribunal developed I became transfixed upon how Allis may overcome her personal angst. I also wanted to get to understand Bagge better, his character and behaviour were so odd that I had to know what had led him to that state.
The Bird Tribunal is beautifully written. Yet it is tense, chilling and at times disconcerting. Think Misery (different tension and no axes) but two people living in a remote location with a strained/artificial/complicated relationship.
A special mention has to be made for Rosie Hedger who has done a wonderful job of ensuring the translation of the author’s original text reflects the haunting atmosphere of the remote isolation that Allis has sought.
The Bird Tribunal is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital editions here.
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