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All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld

All the Birds Singing (2013)

by Evie Wyld

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5984625,184 (3.72)86
  1. 10
    Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (bibliovermis)
    bibliovermis: Another novel that can be read in either direction, exploring a teenage mistake and the moving on from it.
  2. 00
    Bereft by Chris Womersley (Brindle)

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English (44)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
4.5 stars.
I picked up a copy of this book as a summer read on display at my local library, via Norwich Writers Centre summer reads book club. http://www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk/yoursummerreads.aspx. I'm so glad that I did.

It's about sheep and birds and a lot of animals, and all sorts of things you just wouldn't expect. Who says a sheep farm can't be exciting!

The story begins with the words, "Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding." What a way to begin, with those initial words I was instantly drawn in and my attention just didn't waver.

Wyld tells us Jake’s current story in the past tense, and the story of her past in the present tense. An unusual device. Her past is catching up with her always there a menace that she can't escape from. The tale begins in the past tense, in England on her sheep farm. To begin with I found the main protagonist, Jake Whyte, a shady character. Who is this person? Why has she bought a farm in this remote area of England? Her name sounds like a man's name. She has a manly physique, she is no weakling, though there are hints at feminine aspects to her persona. She appears a lonely individual separated from the community in which she lives, unable or unwilling to participate. Her only companion is her dog, who is simply named Dog. This lady is not one for frills. She is a strong woman with a disturbing past, who carries the scars of that past on her back. No wonder she wants to stay hidden. Her only concession to human contact on her sheep farm in England is Don, and Don sold her the house and the land. Don regards her reluctance to engage with others as unnatural, and tries to encourage her to mix to integrate into the farming community, to find someone to share her life with, and to live a normal life.

Chapters alternate to reveal her past in Australia when she was working with a sheep shearing gang to her younger adolescent years when she made a terrible mistake that she is still paying for in the present. This earlier chapter of her life is unexpected, and shocking. No wonder she is running. She has the scars to show for it. In Australia she also has only one companion, no dog this time, a male on the sheep shearing gang. She is one woman among many male sheep shearers, yet she seems to fit in well. Gender lines blur.

In present day England something or somebody is violently killing her sheep. To begin with it she thinks it is kids but as the narrative unfolds this impression begins to change. It appears that her past is catching up on her and her poor sheep are being made to suffer for her misdeeds. What beast is tearing them apart? Is it the beast of her past rearing its ugly head?

Wyld uses several different animals within the narrative to suggest human characteristics, this is particularly evident in the portrayal of Kelly, her captor Otto's dog that she is forced to live with for a time in Australia. Kelly torments Jake with her fierce loyalty to Otto, her captor.This novel is full to buzzing with all sorts of insects, birds, sheep, dogs, fish, oh and a pigeon to mention a few. A quote from the final chapter exemplifies this. "On the beach at low tide after a storm, the sharks that have washed up are the small ones that don't need to be towed onto the sand spit first. They are just finned on the boats and plopped back into the drink...."

I can't find much at all to criticise in Wyld's book. It is wonderfully written, a stunningly clever book. My only slight niggle and it is very slight, I found it strange that she allowed a complete stranger to stay with her alone on her sheep farm in England. This seemed at odds with her reluctance to mix and trust her neighbours. Though perhaps this is a hint that she is prone to making impulsive decisions that can sometimes go badly, as in her past? Several reviewers have found fault with the ambiguous ending of the book. I found the ending a challenge I must say, but after much consideration, I thought it was an excellent ending. It was very thought-provoking. I'm not sure I would say the novel is about forgiveness, I think it is more about trust, doing the right thing, and letting go off the past so that you can allow another person into your life, to share life's difficulties. But that's just my impression of it! I read the final two chapters several times before I could come to an understanding and to some closure. It is a novel that makes you draw your own conclusions. All the Birds Singing is without doubt a memorable book that in its quiet way draws you into a narrative that is mysterious and intriguing. One read through may just not be enough!

I would highly recommend it for readers of Literary Fiction, Mystery, and Contemporary Fiction.

My full review is at www.kyrosmagica.wordpress.com

( )
  marjorie.mallon | Mar 27, 2019 |
Fine stuff. Two timelines, one moving forwards and the other backwards. Clever but also human. Events in the now force a confrontation with the then, delving further and further back to uncover the original sin which still haunts. Literary and complex while staying earthy and accessible. A fine novel. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
A lot of these stars are for the portrayal of a woman who either prefers to be alone (hermit sheep farmer on a UK island -- who doesn't daydream about that? but few of us have her abilities) or prefers to be a bloke among blokes (her stint as a shearer on Australian sheep stations). I can't remember that I've read anything to equal this about women who choose solitude. The dangers are not ignored. On the other hand, Jake has certainly found a peopled environment more dangerous than an unpeopled one. I did not see her as in retreat. Instead, as we go backwards into her past (yes, the past chapters go backwards one by one, which works for both suspense and revelation), we discover how much she has achieved, to be where she is in the story of the present (alternate chapters are set in the present and go forwards). When you see her as a shearer in a team, accepted by the Aussie blokes who are fairly cool with this aside from the obligatory one, you do not imagine the lack of independence in the previous stage of her life. Or even less strength and self-reliance in the stage before that. You find out where she came from. She's even more impressive than she seemed at the beginning.

A fair few reviews complain about the ending. I do too. Not so much the way the present story ends, with more symbol than actual plot resolution. I felt let down by the end of the past story, the origin of her situation that got worse and worse before it got better and better. I was disappointed by the motivation Evie Wyld gave her as a teenage girl, in a novel almost unprecedented, in my experience, about a woman's trials and self-taught strengths.

Also: pretty scary. Short, tight, with the attributes of a thriller. As for comparisons, she gets none from me except Emily Bronte. Another woman who wrote with a thirst for isolated spots and for aloneness, and who manages time structures in her novel with deceptive simplicity. ( )
  Jakujin | Oct 16, 2018 |
I cannot read another page. I can't even remember the last time I returned a book but this will be it. One cannot be expected to abide lines like this:

- "Clare's breath is hot fudge on the side of my face." HOT FUDGE?!? I can't even...

- "I cannot do up my shorts because my hand crunched badly against Clare's face, and it has turned into a meat fist, throbbing and swollen." Yeah, she said 'meat fist'

And so I kept reading, hoping for something validating and then this happened.

- "And when it's my turn, I do sit-ups, which are easier to talk around, and Greg plants his feet on mine to spot me. He never mentions it is strange, he never says, "Careful you'll get too manly."

Good ol' Greg. What a champion for women everywhere.

I'm done.

P.S. To the reviewer that compared the heroine (?) of this novel to Hemingway's Nick Adams maybe never read Hemingway. ( )
  ambersnowpants | Aug 23, 2018 |
This story is about Jake who is a sheep farmer. The story jumps back and forth between Australia and an island in England. The author is an Australian author and this is her second book. It won the Encore Award in 2013 and the Miles Franklin Award in 2014. I found the book had a lot of promise but ended up being lacking. The story has a lot of interesting ideas but seem to be just "over writing" as they tended to not come to any reason for their being. The birds, crows "their beaks shining, strutting, and rasping". "Like a mad woman, listening to her own voice", "five of them sat in a row in the same branch" makes for a nice beginning. The birds let us know there is danger and a group of crows are known as a murder of crows. Jake is a mystery and slowly the reader is given little bits of this mystery back in Australia. Is she mad or is there really something killing off her sheep.

It could have been a good story but the author never did anything with the spider motifs, she barely gave us any reason for Lloyd's appearance on the land. And the ending is absolutely poor. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evie Wyldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gould, CatNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, CarolineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Roz, Roy and Gus
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Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It's just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be., But something is coming for the sheep - every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake's unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape[e of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
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"From one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists, a stunningly insightful, emotionally powerful new novel about an outsider haunted by an inescapable past: a story of loneliness and survival, guilt and loss, and the power of forgiveness. Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something--or someone--picks off one of the sheep and sounds a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is also Jake's past--hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back--a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption"--… (more)

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