Fiction All the birds singing evie wyld omnivore review

Published on June 16th, 2013


All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

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Blurb: Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back. (Jonathan Cape)

Other books by the author

Melissa Harrison, The Financial Times

All The Birds, Singing is 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. Part of the reason for this novel’s power lies in its structure, and the way that it allows information to be revealed … Wyld imbues her lead character with such a steady presence that what in other hands would be clumsy flashbacks become, here, the effect of Jake’s own, tortured memory. We see things this way not because a rather arch narrator is holding back on information, but because Jake herself cannot bear to revisit her past – yet cannot escape from it, either.

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Cressida Connolly, The Spectator

This is a novel saturated with the sense of menace. It is clear that a terrible darkness threatens Jake’s stability, but the source of that horror — and whether it is within or outside her — is revealed only drop by drop, over the course of the story. Maintaining this tension would be a feat in itself, but what makes the book so outstanding is the beauty and simplicity of the writing.

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Stephanie Cross, The Daily Mail

If this is a novel about damage – of which Jake’s scarred back is only the outward manifestation – it is also an intensely involving tale of survival, shot through with Wyld’s distinctive wit.

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Anthony Cummins, Literary Review

“First-person narratives sometimes oblige us to swallow a lumpy mixture of reticence and exhibitionism, but that doesn’t feel like a problem here, partly because the novel seems to hand responsibility for its cut-up structure to someone other than Jake herself – although there’s a hint that the bifurcated narrative might be the effect of a coping strategy Jake learned from a friend in her youth.”

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Tim Lewis, The Observer

It’s an inventive and occasionally discombobulating way of telling a story, but anyone who has read Wyld’s debut, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, will not be surprised … All the Birds, Singing should enhance her reputation as one of our most gifted novelists. Her pacing is impeccable and the trickle of information she marshals lends tension and compassion to Jake’s troubled, solitary existence. How did she get those scars on her back? What could have happened to her in Australia that makes standing in a field, the wind whipping sheep dung in her face, preferable?”

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Lucy Atkins, The Sunday Times

“The writing is particularly arresting when it comes to wildlife — and this novel teems with ­animals. Small observations such as crows roosting “in the trees like unopened buds” or sheeps’ bellies swaying “like hammocks” are vivid and poetic. Sheep figure heavily — often neglected, slashed, flayed, shorn or slaughtered … This may all sound somewhat dark — and it is — but Wyld’s lyrical prose makes it all feel more other-worldly than gruesome. The clever backwards structure also keeps things moving; the need to find out what happened becomes more and more pressing. The revelation, when it finally does come, feels strangely anticlimactic.”

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Kathleen Jamie, The Guardian

“In a sense, this is a tale of possible love and redemption, at once energetic and dark. In another sense, it is a book about summary justice and suspicion, which we readers have been indulging in too. There is a Young Adult feel to it, in style if not content: the pace and snappy dialogue, the punchy first-person narration, the touch of outback gothic, the outsider-ness and, of course, the symbolic “beast” prowling the island – all these are youthful.”

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Stevie Davies, The Independent

“Perhaps the deepest subject of All the Birds, Singing and one worthy of pastoral elegy, or the bleakest georgic, is the openness of sentient creatures to betrayal and death – and the power of the damaged human animal both to inflict and sustain it. Male violence toward women is another strand, hardly ameliorated by the presence of Lloyd, a gentle, alcoholic stranger, who allows the author to bolt on a tragic-comic conclusion. If, on the narrative level, Wyld’s novel has an artificial and generic feel, poetry of wit, pity and verbal virtuosity enlivens and deepens it.”

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