All the Birds, Singing

All the Birds, Singing

3.4 14
by Evie Wyld
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Jake Whyte is a young female sheep farmer, living as a volunteer exile on the remote Isle of Wight. She clings to deep secrets in her past, but the things that haunt her now are often more immediate: A killer is brutally murdering the sheep in her field; she hears disquieting nighttime noises and there are local sightings of a strange man and a boy. This second work by Granta Best New British Novelist Evie Wyld (After the Fire, A Still Small Voice) possesses the perfect combination of photographic precession and empathy to captivate attentive readers.

The New York Times Book Review - Maile Meloy
The novel is set in rough, remote places, but the growing dread and terror reminded me of Daphne du Maurier, who knew a thing or two about birds. Like du Maurier, Wyld is interested in the haunting power of the past and the menace of the half-seen…[Jake's] unlike any character I've seen in fiction. She isn't a forthcoming narrator, and we don't know until the end of the book what's brought her to this damp, unnamed island. Usually narrative withholding makes me impatient…But Wyld's concealment is artful…If the novel sounds forbiddingly dark, it's not. It's swift and assured and emotionally wrenching. You won't only root for Jake, you'll see the world, hard facts and all, more clearly through her telling. There's hope at the end, and wit, and friendship.
Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
In the searing second novel from Wyld (After the Fire, a Still Small Voice), the past takes real and imagined forms, all terrifying, in its protagonist’s life. Jake Whyte, a young Englishwoman, is a sheep farmer on a desolate scrap of island very like the Isle of Wight, where the author, who was named one of the best young British novelists of 2013 by Granta, spent much of her childhood. In the present, something, or someone, is gruesomely killing Jake’s sheep. Her traumatic past includes a stint as a prostitute and a relationship with the creepy Otto, who ostensibly “rescues” Jake from the streets, only to turn her into a sex slave of sorts. Jake’s current fears include a man in a suit who shows up on her property, and a shadowy beast that she heard going berserk in her cottage one night. Wyld’s writing is as muscular as Jake, who, when spooked, drops to the floor to do push-ups. But Jake is troubled as well as strong, running from the many tragedies in her past, including one experience that left a nasty scar on her back. It is a testament to Wyld’s vivid storytelling that readers will feel determined to drag themselves through her tale’s more unsavory moments to its final revelation. Agent: Laetitia Rutherford, Watson, Little Ltd. (U.K.) (Apr.)
From the Publisher
**One of the Best Books of the Year in the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent, Observer**
**Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the James Tait Black Prize, and the Costa Award for Best Novel**

“Daring and fierce, this is a book that makes you feel the need to look over your shoulder in case something dark and hulking might be gaining on you . . . Brilliantly unsettling.” —Boston Globe

“Purely gorgeous . . . Writing with assurance and just enough embedded clues to help us understand what she is doing, Wyld ramps up the tension . . . There’s love as well as dread in this book, a surprising sort of love—the best kind of all.” —Washington Post

“Utterly gripping . . . All the Birds, Singing has the brisk pacing of a well-thumbed pocket paperback found in a summer cottage, and yet it’s the sort of book that gets listed as a best book of the year . . . The success of The Goldfinch was a perfect test case.” Salon
 
“Gloriously gruesome . . . Half of you wants to race through to find out what happens, half wants to pause over the dark, clotted sentences. And then the state of suspense becomes almost unbearable, and you rush through, feeling like you are sprinting through a museum of sinister curiosities, too frightened to linger . . . The final revelation, when it comes, is explosive.” —NPR.org 
 
“Wyld teasingly leads readers to the mysterious incident Jake is trying to escape . . . Pungent with menace.” —Wall Street Journal
 
“Gorgeously vivid . . . Ripe material for a Jane Campion movie or miniseries.” —Harper’s

“Completely and utterly monumental.”  —BBC Radio 4
 
“A tremendous achievement . . . A dark, powerfully disturbing and beautifully observed story . . . almost Nabokovian in its structural intricacy.” —William Boyd, New Statesman 
 
“Broodingly lyrical.”  —Vogue
 
“Outstanding . . . Evie Wyld is the real thing . . . She reconfigures the conventions of storytelling with a sure-footedness and ambition which belie her age . . . Quite as good as Ian McEwan’s early fiction.” —The Spectator
 
“Extraordinarily accomplished, one of those books that tears around in your cerebellum like a dark firework, and which, upon finishing, you immediately want to pick up again.” —Financial Times

“Absolutely gorgeous . . . Wyld’s heroine, Jake, is like Hemingway’s Nick Adams in toughness and silence, but she has a far more terrifying history, and her story now is edged by greater threat. You won’t be able to stop reading.” —David Vann, author of Legend of a Suicide
 
“Extraordinary . . . The conclusion of the novel, when the reveal is delivered with a powerful punch, [is] like something out of an Alice Munro story.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“Wyld displays a fierce command of language . . . She tackles a variety of difficult themes—memory and trauma chief among them—with considerable care.” —Daily Beast

“Don’t overlook Evie Wyld’s read-in-one-sitting All the Birds, Singing . . . Pass along after reading—some secrets are too good not to share.” —W magazine

“Ingeniously constructed.” —Literary Review
 
“A riveting novel . . . Jake is both haunted by the past and struggling with the present, and the intensity of Wyld’s sharp novel grows as the two threaten to collide.” —Booklist
 
“An intensely involving tale of survival, shot through with Wyld’s distinctive wit . . . An indelible and atmospheric novel that will have the hairs on the back of your neck working overtime.” —Daily Mail
 
“For once, the hype matches the talent . . . Wyld’s writing seems to come from somewhere deep somewhere a little bit unnerving.” —The Sunday Times (London)
 
“It’s the quality of Wyld’s prose that really blows your mind.” —Metro
 
“One of the best books I read this year was Evie Wyld's darkly beautiful All the Birds, Singing. Wyld twists together the warp and weft of poetic language and plot to create a disquieting, deeply suspenseful novel. It lingered with me long after I finished it."  —Hannah Kent, Sydney Morning Herald
 
“Searing . . . Wyld’s writing is as muscular as Jake.” —Publishers Weekly
 
 “Wyld [is] a writer of exceptional talent . . . a distinctive and important new voice.” —Irish Times
 
“Vividly drawn . . . When the birds do ‘sing,’ and Jake’s primal tragedy is revealed, it is clever and very unexpected indeed.” —The Guardian
 
“Unsettling, beautiful, horrifying and moving in equal parts . . . In the flawed but vulnerable character of Jake, Wyld’s created someone you can’t help but care for, root for and desperately want the best for . . . There is no disputing the power of the story and the beauty of Wyld’s writing. It’s an extraordinary book.” —Stylist
 
“One feels the influence of an early Ian McEwan or Iain Banks . . . But All the Birds, Singing is also powerfully original.” —Times Literary Supplement (London)
 
“Tim Winton is a writer with whom the fearless Wyld deserves serious comparison.” —Daily Telegraph
 
Wyld’s work has been compared to that of Cormac McCarthy for the mythic qualities they share, but it is in the continuity of peoples, places and customs that the two are bound together tightest. The Skinny

“Evie Wyld’s novels ask tough questions without seeking easy answers . . . Wyld excels in the intimate details that make up the relationship between humans and animals . . . Best of all are Jake’s interactions with dogs in the novel . . . Despite Jake’s gruff exterior, this is not a book about loneliness or even isolation. There are moments of connection and human kindness.” —BookPage

Library Journal
11/01/2013
One of Granta's Best Young British Novelists, Wyld earned both John Llewellyn Rhys and the Betty Trask nods for the haunting page-turner After the Fire, a Still Small Voice. A woman living on a craggy speck of a British island suddenly finds her sheep are vanishing one by one. Is the culprit man or beast?
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-02
The second novel from award-winning Australian author Wyld (After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, 2009) explores the checkered past of a self-reliant young woman, a sheep farmer. When we first meet Jake Whyte, she's tending her flock on an island off the coast of England. This is no Little Bo Peep: Jake is a tall, muscular Australian who can shear a fleece with the best of them. She's also a loner; after three years on the island, she has no friends. To understand her, we must delve into her Australian past, which Wyld alternates with her English present. In a further twist, Wyld uses reverse chronology for the Australian sections. In the Outback, Jake is the only female member of a team of shearers, contract workers moving between sheep farms. Wyld is at her best capturing their work rhythms and cheerful profanity. Jake has hooked up with Greg, a good guy, but is being blackmailed by another shearer who's found out Jake is on the run. That takes us back to her time with Otto, a sheep farmer who kept her as a sex slave. Did he also cause those wicked scars on her back? Jake had met Otto when she was a hooker and he had seemed the better proposition, but it was the wrong call. At last we reach the catastrophe that gave Jake those scars and forced the 15-year-old to leave home. The tricky narrative strategy has given Jake a past but not developed a full character. Jake has little interior, and that's true too of her English incarnation. Instead of insights, we get more mysteries. What strange beast lurking in the woods is savaging her sheep? And who is the disoriented trespasser she shelters? Wyld has ordained a permanently dark life for her protagonist, a stubborn fate that offsets the surprises and the reader's enjoyment.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307907769
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/15/2014
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,189,373
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

1
 
Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. Crows, their beaks shining, strutting and rasping, and when I waved my stick they flew to the trees and watched, flaring out their wings, singing, if you could call it that. I shoved my boot in Dog’s face to stop him from taking a string of her away with him as a souvenir, and he kept close by my side as I wheeled the carcass out of the field and down into the woolshed.
 
I’d been up that morning, before the light came through, out there, talking to myself, telling the dog about the things that needed doing as the blackbirds in the hawthorn started up. Like a mad woman, listening to her own voice, the wind shoving it back down my throat and hooting over my open mouth like it had done every morning since I moved to the island. With the trees rattling in the copse and the sheep blaring out behind me, the same trees, the same wind and sheep.
 
That made two deaths in a month. The rain started to come down, and a sudden gust of wind flung sheep shit at the back of my neck so it stung. I pulled up my collar and shielded my eyes with my hand.
 
Cree-cra, cold, cree-cra, cold.
 
“What are you laughing at?” I shouted at the crows and lobbed a stone at them. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and breathed in and out heavily to get rid of the blood smell. The crows were silent. When I turned to look, five of them sat in a row on the same branch, eyeing me but not speaking. The wind blew my hair in my eyes.
 
#
 
The farm shop at Marling had a warped and faded sign at the foot of its gate that read FREE BABY GUINEA PIGS. There was never any trace of the free guinea pigs and I had passed the point of being able to ask. The pale daughter of the owner was there, doing a crossword. She looked up at me, then looked back down like she was embarrassed.
 
“Hi,” I said.
 
She blushed but gave me the smallest of acknowledgements. She wore a thick green tracksuit and her hair was in a ponytail. Around her eyes was the faint redness that came after a night of crying or drinking.
 
Normally the potatoes from that place were good, but they all gave a little bit when I picked them up. I put them back down and moved over to tomatoes, but they weren’t any good either. I looked up out the window to where the farm’s greenhouse stood and saw the glass was all broken.
 
“Hey,” I said to the girl, who when I turned around was already looking at me, sucking the end of her pencil. “What happened to your greenhouse?”
 
“The wind,” she said, taking her pencil to the side of her mouth just for a moment. “Dad said to say the wind blew it in.”
 
I could see the glass scattered outside where normally they kept pots of ugly pink cyclamen with a sign that said THE JEWEL FOR YOUR WINTER GARDEN. Just black earth and glass now.
 
“Wow,” I said.
 
“Things always get mad on New Year’s Eve,” said the girl in an older voice that surprised both of us. She blushed deeper and turned her eyes back to her crossword. In the greenhouse, the man who normally ran the shop sat with his head in his hands.
 
I took some oranges and leeks and lemons to the counter. I didn’t need anything, the trip was more about the drive than the supplies. The girl dropped her pencil out of her mouth and started to count oranges, but wasn’t sure of herself and started again a few times over. There was a smell of alcohol about her, masked by too much perfume. A hangover then. I imagined an argument with her father. I looked up at the greenhouse again, the man in it still with his head in his hands, the wind blowing through.
 
“Are there nine there?” she asked, and even though I hadn’t counted as I put them in the basket I said yes. She tapped things into the till.
 
“Must be hard to lose the greenhouse,” I said, noticing a small blue bruise at the girl’s temple. She didn’t look up.
 
“It’s not so bad. We should have had an order over from the mainland, but the ferry’s not going today.”
 
“The ferry’s not going?”
 
“Weather’s too bad,” she said, again in that old voice that embarrassed us both.
 
“I’ve never known that to happen.”
 
“It happens,” she said, putting my oranges in one bag and the rest in another. “They built the new boats too big so they aren’t safe in bad weather.”
 
“Do you know what the forecast is?”
 
The girl glanced up at me quickly and lowered her eyes again.
 
“No. Four pounds twenty please.” She slowly counted out my money. It took two goes to get the change right. I wondered what new thing she’d heard about me. It was time to leave, but I didn’t move.
 
“So what’s with the free guinea pigs?”
 
The flush came back to her face. “They’ve gone. We gave them to my brother’s snake. There were loads.”
 
“Oh.”
 
The girl smiled. “It was years ago.”
 
“Sure,” I said.
 
The girl put the pencil back in her mouth and her eyes fluttered back down to her crossword. She was just colouring in the white squares, it turned out.
 
In the truck, I found I had left the oranges in the shop. I looked out of my rear-view mirror at the smashed greenhouse and saw the man inside standing up with his hands on his hips looking at me. I locked the doors and drove away without the oranges.
 
It started to rain heavily, and I turned up the heating and put the wipers on full speed. We drove past the spot I usually stopped to walk Dog and he sat in the passenger seat and stared at me hard, and every time I turned to look at him he put his ears up, like we were mid-conversation and I was avoiding his look. “So what?” I said. “You’re a dog.” And then he turned around and looked out the window.
 
#
 
Midway home it caught up with me and I pulled over into the entrance to an empty field. Dog gazed stoically out the window, still and calm, and I pressed my thumb into the bridge of my nose to try and take away the prickling, clung on to the skin of my chest with the nails of my other hand to melt away that old -thudding ache that came with losing a sheep, a bead of blood landing in an open eye. I cried drily, honking and with my mouth open, rocking the truck and feeling something grappling around inside me getting no closer to coming out. Have a good cry; it was the kind of thing Mum’d say to a triplet in the hope a visit to the hospital wasn’t necessary. Like the time Cleve fell out of a tree and cried it out, and we found out later he had a broken arm. But there was nothing good in my crying—it prevented me from breathing, it hurt. I stopped once my nose began to bleed, cleaned it up with the shammy I used on the days the windows were iced on the inside and drove home, calmly. On the Military Road near to the turning home, some teenagers fondled about at the bus stop. When they saw me coming one of the boys pretended to put something in his mouth, another mounted him from behind and humped him while he mimed throwing a lasso. The girls laughed and gave me the finger. As I rounded the corner the boy with the lasso dropped his trousers and showed his white arse.

#

Meet the Author

EVIE WYLD grew up in Australia and London, where she currently resides. She has won the John Llewellyn-Rhys prize and a Betty Trask Award, and she has been short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the Costa Novel Award.

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All the Birds, Singing 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
All The Birds, Singing is the second novel by British-Australian author, Evie Wyld, and winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award. The first narrative starts with Jake Whyte, currently living on an unnamed British island, finding a second of her sheep dead and mutilated, and wondering whether foxes, some other wildlife or the local teens are to blame. Jake’s isolated existence, with only her dog, Dog, and her herd of sheep for company, puzzles the locals. The second narrative starts some three years earlier, with Jake part of a sheep-shearing troupe in Western Australia. It seems that Jake is on the run from something or someone: just who is Otto? And why does Jake have scars on her back? What knowledge is it that another shearer tries to hold over her? The hints and clues will have the reader intrigued as to the events in Jake’s past that have led to her current situation. Astute readers will quickly realise that the events occurring in Australia are told in reverse order. With her evocative descriptions, Wyld sets her scenes, both the isolated, cold British island and the hot, dusty West Australian outback, with consummate ease. Her plot has twists that eventually reveal hidden depths and flaws in the prickly Jake the world is shown. While some of the subject matter can be quite confronting, there is also subtle humour contained in Wyld’s prose. A brilliant read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stayed up until 3:00 a.m. finishing this. The book drew me in and kept me interested.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book....  loved the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book partially for all the great reviews. I liked the book until about halfway in and stuck with it because I thought she was going to tie everything together at the end. She did not! I disliked this book more than I have disliked any book in a long time! The ending of the book made me dislike Jake and it did not tie the story together.
anonymousKC More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised with the book given the subject or sheep farming. I really enjoyed her writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You get pulked into the story and bam! the story ends suddenly with no resolution to several mysterious plot lines. Its as though the authir got lazy and didnt feel like wtiting anymore snd just ended it mid story. highly irritating and .akes it a waste if money to purchase and a waste if time to read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting book and nicely written... until the end! I have so many questions!