All The Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld
Jake Whyte has retreated to a remote farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds, with only her collie and a flock of sheep as companions. But something—or someone—has begun picking off her sheep one by one. There are foxes in the woods, a strange man wandering the island, and rumors of a mysterious beast prowling at night. And there is Jake’s relentless past—one she tried to escape thousands of miles away and years ago, concealed in stubborn silence and isolation and the scars that stripe her back.
Review: I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but I’ve heard that Australia has a bit of a spider situation. Like, there are lots of spiders. This is not okay with me. Spiders go against everything I stand for in this world. All the Birds, Singing just confirmed that Australia has entirely too many spiders for me.
Jake Whyte is a young woman who has made some deadly mistakes. To avoid being captured by the police or hunted down by her ex-boyfriend, she leaves Australia and becomes a sheep farmer on a lonely British island. But, Jake can’t relax. Something is killing her sheep, a strange man is roaming the woods, and someone has been inside her house. Jake will do whatever it takes to protect her secrets.
“I'm out of knives for the time being” – All the Birds, Singing
The writing in this book is so good. I wish all books were written like this one. It’s dark and menacing and atmospheric. I’ve never been to England or Australia, and I know nothing about sheep, but the author makes the settings easy to imagine. The descriptions of the landscape are beautiful. Evie Wyld is an extremely talented writer.
None of the characters are likeable, but they’re realistic. Jake has made some bad choices in her life. The story is about her memories, and how you can never escape from yourself, no matter how far you run. Bad memories will always follow you. You can’t hide from them.
The structure of this novel is kind of bizarre. The present-day part of the story moves forward, and the past part moves backwards. This builds suspense because the reader sees Jake running from her crime, but the crime itself isn’t shown until the very end.
The structure is slightly confusing because there are a lot of characters, but the reader doesn’t know why these people are important at first. Also, the tenses are weird. The present-day sections are written in past tense. The past sections are written in present tense. Um . . . why? At the beginning of the book, I was confused about when the events were happening. Maybe the author did it that way to show that Jake’s past is more real to her than her present? She’s still mentally living in the past? I don’t know. I got confused. It felt backwards. I figured it out pretty quickly, though.
If you can’t stand slow books, you should probably skip this one. It takes a long time for the action to get going. I did get a little bored with the slowness in the beginning, but it didn’t bother me too much because I love the writing and descriptions. Those kept me happy until the plot picked up. The story is quietly suspenseful. It’s all about the bleak atmosphere.
“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
This is a book that I can see myself rereading. There is a lot going on under the surface that I would see better while rereading. The author subverts traditional gender roles and uses animals as symbols for human relationships. (Childlike sheep, shepherd/sheepdog partnerships, godlike birds, spiders freakin’ everywhere.) I think this is a book that demands rereading. It’s hard to see everything on the first trip through it.
I wasn’t sure about this novel at the start, but I ended up being impressed by it. It’s strange and hard to describe. I’ve added one of Evie Wyld’s other books to my TBR list. I’m excited to see what else she has written.