book review: all the birds singing by evie wyld

This book was sent to me by Random House Australia. I have been asked to write a review and my review is truthful to my opinion of the book.

all the birds singing

From the press release:

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?

“The human eye senses movement before all else” — What if you saw something watching you from the woods? Something beastly, something that had been slaughtering your sheep, one-by-one? Something that might not be human…

Jake Whyte lives on her farm with her companion, Dog, and her much-loved herd of sheep. Her farm is on a small, remote island, nothing unsual except for the wild and windy weather and the cheeky crows that watch over her each day.

Nothing seems out of the ordinary until another one of Jake’s sheep is found mangled, making it two deaths in a month. Then one night, Jake sees a figure on her farm and files a trespassing report with the police. Ironically they dismiss the complaint and suggest the loneliness is getting to her.

But when she starts hearing strange noises and seeing things out in the woods, she is convinced that someone, or something, is watching her. Could it be the foxes, hungry in the cold hours of the night? Could it be the local kids playing jokes, or the doings of something far more mysterious? Could it be her hidden past, slowly coming back to haunt her?

My first impression? This is a novel that does not spare on the gory detail. Why? Because it helps to tell a story that is a little rough around the edges and like most aspects of life is a little bit messy. The opening line sets the scene, “another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding”. All The Birds, Singing is rich in visual imagery. It does not take much for the reader to imagine what is going on in author Evie Wyld’s mind.

The novel is split between Australia and a remote English island and follows the story of Jake Whyte, a sheep farmer who has suspicions that someone is killing her sheep. And yes, her is not a typo. Jake is a woman. I found this to be rather odd and confusing. In a non-sexist way, the way the character of Jake is written and Jake’s current occupation all screams man and I guess that Wyld thought about this when naming Jake. It fits with the character despite the initial confusion.

Jake has it rough. She has a past that she is clearly running from and is continually having to prove herself in her work as a sheep farmer. Jake quickly earns the respect of her fellow farmers due to her hard work and is often called a “bloody good bloke”. All The Birds, Singing is filled with jumping timelines. We are presented with the current story, where Jake lives alone in an unnamed island off the coast of Britain where she tends to 50 sheep with the help of her unimaginatively named dog, Dog. Told in a straight forward fashion, this story line is constant and linear in delivery.

Jake is originally from Australia and has moved to this British island in an attempt to escape from her past. Throughout the novel we get glimpses into Jake’s life in Australia moving in reverse from when she was an adult working as a sheep shearer back to when she was a teenager. It is clear that she has a strained relationship with her family and the reason as to why becomes more apparent the further you go back into her past.

The ending was abrupt. There were many story lines and mysteries left unsolved. I almost expected to turn the page and see an advertisement for the sequel. Pretty much throughout the whole book, Jake was convinced that something or someone was killing her sheep. To me, that was the undercurrent to all the subplots explored about her past and present. Yet after the final line, I’m still none the wiser as to what is killing the sheep. It felt a little bit unfinished to me.

While it was well written and the characters were strong, All The Birds, Singing isn’t really my kind of book. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate it, but the graphic content in certain parts of the book were a bit too harsh for my liking. Having said that, I am a bit of a prude. Wyld writes incredibly well and is a gifted storyteller.

Images supplied by Random House Australia

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