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All the Birds, Singing: A Novel Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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Jake Whyte, the female protagonist in Wyld’s riveting second novel (following After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, 2009), lives alone on a bleak island off the British coast. A sheep farmer, Jake finds that her primary companion is her dog, named simply Dog. Trouble arises when someone, or something, begins killing Jake’s sheep one by one. At first, Jake suspects local teenagers or a wild animal, but it quickly becomes clear that the entity, real or imagined, is far more mysterious. Jake’s vivid tale unfolds in a double narrative. As events in her life on the island move forward chronologically, episodes from her prior life are revealed in reverse, incrementally uncovering the menacing details of her past. These include the time she spent working as a shearer at a sheep station in western Australia, a harrowing turn as a prostitute, and the traumatic events that lie at the root of Jake’s perpetual transience and isolation. 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. --Leah Strauss
**One of the Best Books of the Year in the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent, Observer**
**Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize, and the Costa Award for Best Novel**
**Winner of the Encore Award for Best Second Novel**
**Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award**
“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
“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 . . . She’s unlike any character I’ve seen in fiction.” —Maile Meloy, New York Times Book Review
“Masterful.” —The New Yorker
“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
“Wickedly captivating . . . It’s a testament to Wyld’s nimble talent that she pulls off the trick [of the structure] so successfully . . . It’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in the game of merging the two stories . . . Think Room or Winter’s Bone–style creepy.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“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
“Tantalizes . . . The prose maintains a fine-tuned ominous mood.” —New York Times
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
This is another one of those books (kind of like Annihilation) that defies hard categorization. Though it is a suspenseful novel I have a hard time calling it a suspense novel. If that makes any sense at all. As I said above – the structure of this book is what makes it so unique – it really gives the reader a sense of push and pull, dread and understanding, of what Jake is going through.
The ending is a point of contention for many readers (I’m going to just leave it there), but no matter how you feel about it, All the Birds, Singing is one of those novels that sticks with you for a long time after you’ve read it.
Unique and thoroughly enjoyable, I think that readers of literary fiction (and yes, suspense novels) are likely to really appreciate this book. This would also make an EXCELLENT book club pick because it’s relatively short and there are lots of things to talk about.
The protagonist is a woman who moves through men's world because the occupations that she is in--farming--is almost exclusively run by men. As we read the book, we learn about her past, and how she survives doing all she has to do. Farming is a hard, lonely, and even dangerous work, even more so for a single woman. There's mystery in this book and while reading one senses danger or something big to happen in the next paragraph or page. That keeps the book interesting till the end.
Wyld writes in a breezy, easy to read style. But she creates complex characters. Her structure fascinated me, a writer. As a reader I may have been less fascinated. You begin the story in Jake's point of view in the present time. That first chapter sets up Jake's present world but in the past tense. The second chapter flashes back to Jake's earlier life, but told in the present tense. Now the fun begins. Chapter three continues moving the present forward. So far, you're thinking, what's so strange about this? Right? Here we go into Chapter four. Wyld takes us into the past, but closer to the present. In other words, the present chapters move forward in time and the past chapters move backward. Got it?
You may say that's too confusing to read, but don't. Once I realized the pattern, I was anxious to keep reading. You know something very bad happened in Jake's to bring her to the present state she was in. You know she was running from someone or something. As the past moves further back in time, a little is revealed, but not all is revealed until the very end. The pieces of the puzzle finally come together at the end. Quite satisfying.
As an animal lover, I had some trouble with the descriptions of the slaughter of sheep. Other than that, I found the book an excellent read. Wyld writes like a poet. Every word counts. Here's one example:
"There's that solid heat that gets bounced down on us from the tin roof, and the flies in here are fat and damp--when they land around your mouth, you feel like you've been kissed by something dead."
What is this story about? It's about survival. It's about tragedy.