Publication Date: 04/04/2024 ISBN: 9781787704619 Category:

The Axeman’s Carnival

Catherine Chidgey

Publisher: Europa Editions (UK) Ltd
Publication Date: 04/04/2024 ISBN: 9781787704619 Category:
Paperback / Softback


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Mr B's review

I didn’t anticipate recommending a novel with a bird as narrator, but this family drama is stunning. When Marnie rescues a baby magpie and hand-rears it, she finds an ally. Living on a remote and failing sheep farm, Marnie has been lonely and the bird’s arrival highlights the cracks in her marriage. Naming him Tama, she loves and spoils him , stoking husband Rob’s jealousy.
Now summer is here and it’s time for the Axeman’s Carnival, an annual woodcutters competition. It’s the social event of the year – and Rob is reigning champion. Preparing for this year’s contest, frustration turns to rage. Funny and sad, it is Tama’s shrewd observations that make this characterful book stand out from the crowd. – Sue.


A dazzling portrayal of humanity and the natural world that perfectly balances violence and humour.

Everywhere, the birds, but above them all and louder, the magpies. We are here and this is our tree, and we’re staying, and you need to leave and now

Tama is just a helpless chick when he is rescued by Marnie, and this is where his story might have ended. ‘If it keeps me awake,’ says Marnie’s husband Rob, a farmer, ‘I’ll have to wring its neck.’ But with Tama come new possibilities for the couple’s future. Tama can speak, and his fame is growing. Outside, in the pines, his father warns him of the wickedness wrought by humans. Indoors, Marnie confides in him about her violent marriage. The more Tama sees, the more the animal and the human worlds – and all the precarity, darkness and hope within them – bleed into one another. Like a stock truck filled with live cargo, the story moves inexorably towards its dramatic conclusion: the annual Axeman’s Carnival.

Part trickster, part surrogate child, part witness, Tama the magpie is the star of this story. Though what he says aloud to humans is often nonsensical (and hilarious), the tale he tells us weaves a disturbingly human sense. The Axeman’s Carnival is Catherine Chidgey at her finest – comic, profound, poetic and true.

Publisher Review

“Funny, dark, insightful and unique, this beautifully written novel is a story and a magpie you will NEVER forget.” * Jennie Godfrey, author of The List of Suspicious Things * “I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with a magpie, but from the opening chapter, which is a masterclass in prose, to the final scene, I was spellbound by the foul-mouthed, wisecracking Tama and his quest to save gentle Marnie from unspeakable violence. Another tour de force from Catherine Chidgey.” * Karen Powell, author of Fifteen Wild Decembers * “The Axeman’s Carnival” is both tense and disconcertingly charming. The story is filled with delightful moments but tightens with frightening inevitability to a shocking conclusion.” * Lulu Allison, author of Salt Lick * “A remarkable and original writer, whose novels have the golden combination of being both riveting and superbly-written.” * Lissa Evans * “The work of a writer absolutely on top of her game, narrated with linguistic brio by a magpie chick, who tells the story of her human rescuer Marnie’s escape from a violent marriage.” * John Mitchinson * “The Axeman’s Carnival is remarkable, brilliant, a classic in the making.” — Rachael King * Newsroom * “The Axeman’s Carnival is a compulsive read and flat-out brilliant.” * Elizabeth Knox * “One of our very best novelists knocks it out of the park.” * New Zealand Herald (Book of the Year) * “Chidgey’s writing is masterful, and the underlying sense of dread as the story unfolds is shot through with humour and humanity. The Axeman’s Carnival is unique: poetic, profound and a powerfully compelling read from start to finish.” * Judges’ comments, Ockham NZ Book Awards 2023 *

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