Customer Review

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and Unsettling, 23 Jun. 2013
This review is from: All the Birds, Singing (Hardcover)
An unusual and unsettling novel, Evie Wyld's second book, is set in the heat and dust of Australia, and in the wind and rain of an unnamed island off the British coast. The narrative for the British sections move forwards in time and, interestingly, the Australian sections move backwards in time - which may seem a little confusing initially, but once you have read the first couple of chapters, you are aware of exactly where, and when, the story is taking place.

Jake Whyte, a tall, very fit young woman has come to Britain and, with a history of sheep-shearing behind her in her native Australia, she has bought a sheep farm, where she lives and works alone with her canine companion, Dog. Jake keeps herself very much to herself, and that is the way she likes it. Her nearest neighbour, Don, from whom Jake bought the farm, tries to encourage her to mix with the locals, telling her that in the harsh climate in which they live, it is essential to be able to call on neighbours in times of trouble. Jake, however, whom we come to realize is both physically and mentally scarred from a very chequered past, ignores Don's advice - she has no need of companionship, she is strong and she can manage by herself. So why then does Jake feel threatened? Why does she feel there is someone or something out in the woods waiting for her? And why does she sleep with a hammer under her pillow? And then Jake disturbs a strange man taking refuge from the weather in her barn, and when a particularly bad storm means that he has to stay on her farm for a few days, Jake comes to realize that this man is just as much of an outsider as she is. But is he friend or foe?

Moving backwards and forwards in time, Evie Wyld's novel is an unsettling and very intriguing read that, if possible, is better read in one or two sittings. The sections set in Australia are cleverly executed, and it is in these chapters that the reader gradually learns of the unpleasant events which led up to Jakes's present predicament, and these make for very engrossing, if rather disturbing reading. With themes of mental and sexual manipulation and abuse, this novel is obviously not one to choose for cosy, bedtime or relaxed holiday reading; it's an unusual and gritty story of suffering and survival and it doesn't come with a neat, entirely resolved ending - but some of us don't necessarily always want nice, cosy stories, and if you don't, then this might be what you are looking for.

4 Stars.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Jan 2014 15:01:43 GMT
Hi, that's an informative and well put together review of a book I've been meaning to read for a while. It doesn't sound at all dissimilar to Gerbrand Bakker's 'The Detour'. Have you read that? A Dutch woman escaping a past mistake comes to live in a farmhouse in Wales, where, after being bitten by a badger, her past begins to repeat itself. This time it's geese that disappear, not sheep! Strange sometimes how a number of similar books seem to get published at the same time (oldish men on journeys of various kinds was another recent literary trope).

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jan 2014 16:34:32 GMT
Susie B says:
Hi annwiddecombe
Thank you for your comment and yes, I have read 'The Detour' - I read and reviewed it in April 2012. 'All the Birds Singing' is similar in that it is, like 'The Detour', an unusual, intense and rather claustrophobic story, but I found 'All the Birds Singing' to be a more gritty and unsettling read than 'The Detour'. Both books, however, are very good and well worth the read, providing you are not looking for a nice, cosy story! All the best. SusieB.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jan 2014 17:28:04 GMT
If you like claustrophobic stories with off-kilter atmospheres (which obviously you do), I can also recommend MJ Hyland's 'This is How'. Nice and cosy are for slippers, not novels!
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Susie B
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