Hardcover, 240 pages
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 rain and battering wind. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wants 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, and 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.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld is a highly recommended darkly atmospheric character study.
Jake Whyte is a taciturn young woman who is currently living as a sheep farmer on an island off the coast of England. She wants nothing more than to live a quiet life away from everyone else but she is also haunted by a unacknowledged past in Australia from which she is actively hiding. Her current troubles ate much more real. Something or someone is killing her sheep and she's hearing unsettling noises at night that may be related to the slaughter. She thinks it might be that starnge man she's seen around or perhaps some local teens looking for a dark thrill. The violent attacks on her sheep may force her to meet some neighbors, make some allies, and find some answers.
The chapters alternate between present day Jake in England and her problems and the story of what happened in her past in Australia that has made her so secretive. Wyld manages to keep the tension high as Jake's story slowly unfolds. As events churn into an inescapable storm cloud of woe and despair, this is an unrelentingly dark novel. The quality of the prose and the emotional angst Wyld so skillfully captures is what kept me riveted to the story even when the gloom seemed too heavy.
Wlyd also managed to artfully include in her novel the reality of how woman can even today be treated as hysterical when something is wrong, as if our sex somehow determines our intelligence or ability to see that something is intrinsically wrong or evil. And perhaps how women still need to struggle to be viewed as equals - or perhaps we never will.
Beyond that, though, Wyld has given us a wonderfully bleak, somber tale full of shadowy despondency as we explore Jake's character while Jake struggles to overcome what is haunting her past and present. (The only downside, for me, is the ending...)
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.