Title: All the birds, singing’
Author: Evie Wyld – author website
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
Publication Date: 20th June 2013.
Stand alone or Series? Stand alone (Author’s second novel)
Why did I choose to read this book? Another fantastic choice by my book club, and an early edition due to contacts in the biz!
Where to read? Although the book never really reveals exactly where Jack’s sheep farm is, I think one of these Homestay’s in the Isle of Man would fit quite nicely.
Refreshments: Our book club relies on good snacks so this month we tucked into the healthier option of chips/ crudites (yes we’re fancy) and dip, carrot cake and blackberries all washed down with copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea – is there any other kind?
Jake Whyte is the lone resident of an old farmhouse. It’s just her, Dog, and a flock of sheep. But not all is calm, something is coming for the sheep. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of a beast. Plus there is Jake’s unknown past, causing her unease in the present, a story hidden in Australia a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
My favourite aspect of this book was the structure. The starting chapters follow a chronological sequence before seamlessly shifting into a fractured series of snapshots of, our main character, Jake’s life. It is through this style of writing that Wyld has created a beautiful narrative, revealing the character to us and developing our relationship with her. This method also enables Wyld to conceal the entire truth of Jake’s life until the bitter end and a shocking denouement.
As this novel was the subject of my book group it was interesting to hear how others had reacted. The overall consensus was that the story was heart wrenching and extremely powerful, however, it was surprising to hear how specific details had been interpreted. This was most notable in the sexual orientation of the characters, from Jake and Karen’s relationship to that of Jake and Lloyd. The specific setting of the sheep farm within the British Isles was also a topic of discussion. This active debate is testament to Wyld’s ability to write an engaging novel with scant narrative embellishment.
No review could really be conducted without a brief discussion of the actual characters. Aside from Jake, the other character that made a lasting impression was Otto, and this was a deeply sinister one. His life and his role within Jake’s life are never explicit and it is left to the reader to make assumptions. Each episode contained often graphic and disturbing descriptions, hinting at a inexplicit threat, especially when a shoe and earring are referenced.
It is also clear that Wyld has drawn upon her childhood in Australia and her present life in Britain in order to capture language idiosyncrasies and jargon. This effectively identifies the different sections of Jack’s life and the reader’s journey between her past and present.
This novel will frustrate some and fascinate other readers. The story is fractured, but the simple narrative makes it easy to follow and sew up the story in your mind. It is a dark and emotional story of one person’s life and how childhood events can shape the rest of your life.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – heart wrenching and beautiful. Will definitely be reading her first novel, ‘After the Fire, a still small voice.’