All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Really surprised by what a compelling page turner this novel is. I enjoyed a lot of the writing in Wyld’s first novel After the Fire but structurally never quite found it cohesive. It was perhaps one of those examples of a young writer overreaching herself, trying too hard to be literary. The structure of All the Birds, Singing, on the other hand, is inspired and ensures Wyld can exact every accelerated heartbeat of tension out of her story.

The novel juxtaposes two timelines both narrated in the first person. Jake, a loner of a girl who has run away from some mysterious event in her past and evidently wants nothing more than to live in concealment is working on an unnamed island off the coast of Britain as a sheep farmer. Something on this island is brutally killing off and disembowelling her sheep.  The compelling menace Wyld feeds into the darkness of these sections is brilliantly sustained throughout the novel. This narrative moves forward in a conventional manner. The alternate narrative is the stroke of brilliance. This begins a few years earlier and moves backwards, a rewinding timeline that tantalisingly unfurls the mystery of the darkness in Jake’s past. We quickly learn Jake is ashamed of her body because her back is covered in ridged welts and scars. We also learn she was the prisoner of a creepy much older man on a remote farm. But this isn’t even half the story…

The artistry and pacing with which Wyld  sustains and heightens our curiosity about Jake’s secrets is brilliant. Jake is hiding from the world and Wyld hides her from us but in so doing makes her a more and more compelling figure.  Among other things All the Birds is a thrilling feat of sustained concealment.  It also questions gender stereotyping. An obnoxious male is called Clare; the female narrator has a male name and is frequently referred to by her male co-workers as “a good bloke”. She is muscular and self-sufficient and it takes a male to bring a homely atmosphere into her house. It also has a timeless quality, like a fairy story. Wholly recommended.evie-wyld


2 thoughts on “All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

  1. I was looking at this at the bookstore the other day. I remember wanting to read it so badly when it came out but it took a long time reaching North America. Sometimes when my enthusiasm has worn off I can’t remember why I was so eager to read it. You have reminded me. Thanks!


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