All the Birds, Singing is a brilliant book that deserves the praise and accolades it has received. The tension that stretches throughout the book keeps you just that little bit on the edge of your seat. Never quite able to relax. Coupled with concise writing and compelling imagery, this book makes for addictive reading.
Jake Whyte is a sheep farmer with a tumultuous past now living on a remote, undisclosed, wet and cold island. She keeps to herself, refusing to socialise with the small island community, fearing that he will find her. Jake’s nights are fraught with things that go bump in the night, each sound amplified and distorted, reality and nightmare blending, bleeding into one another. Her days are tormented by some unknown creature that is killing off her sheep, one by one, leaving the carcasses to be discovered in the paddocks on her property. Someone or something is out there. Watching.
Jake is a closed book, refusing to open for anyone, and yet as you read the shadows of her past slowly emerge. Her life is one of solitude and long suppressed pain and torment. Evie Wyld does not shy away from forthright portrayals of harrowing events. There’s no padding to put the reader at ease. Instead there is a raw honesty and intense scrutiny of events that creates discomfort, makes you catch your breath and squirm in your seat.
There is also a keen reflection of Australian culture in her portrayal of life in rural Australia, of a life lived on the fringes, as an outsider and how the events of youth can have indelible consequences on the future. All the Birds, Singing is convincing, electric, raw and, ultimately, beautiful.
What I loved about this book is that it wasn’t predictable. Things that I thought would happen didn’t. There were events and revelations that I never expected. The method of storytelling added to the uniqueness of this book. The story is delivered in a back-and-forth, past and present format, however what makes this narrative so unique is that as the present progresses ever forwards, the past unfolds ever backwards taking you further and further back into Jakes’ past, to the original catalyst point. The two parts of Jake’s life spiral outwards away from each other, rather than meeting at a common point. The present is told using past tense, giving a sense of distance, and the past is told using present tense, creating a sense of immediacy the to the events. It’s a clever technique, and it works incredibly well. It’s Evie Wyld’s talent in writing and construction that makes All the Birds, Singing such an enthralling read. If you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy yet, make sure you do. Soon.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Random House 2013) ISBN: 9781742757315 (ebook)