Author: Evie Wyld
Source: Received ARC from Turkish publisher for review
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 rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But 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.
"Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapors rising from her like a steamed pudding." This is how All the Birds, Singing opens. I did get a sense of mystery from the book's title and cover, but I cannot tell you how tensed I got right from this very first sentence. The person who finds this bled out sheep is the main character and narrator of the book, Jake Whyte. The story of this woman who lives on an unnamed island somewhere in England with only her dog and sheep in a farmhouse is as tense, uncomfortable and curious as the sheep excrement the wind blows to her nape. On the one hand, I wanted to explore this mysterious-feeling island with Jake. Yet, on the other hand, I was scared thinking, "something bad might happen if I do that."
With its poetic writing and the feelings it rises, All the Birds, Singing reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe's Annabel Lee. You get scared when you least expect it; freeze in England's cold one minute, and then the next minute you're burning in the Australian heat. While the story unveils and you try to learn how and why Jake ended up where she is you see how the weather is metaphor for her going hot and cold emotionally.
Jake herself is an interesting character as well. Even though she herself is the one telling you the story, you can't really tell whether you're really getting to know her or not. Sometimes she feels certain things but tries hard to cover it. In her life in England, she's rather boyish and knows how to stand on her two feet. Yet, you also feel that the power that oozes off of her comes from her success at hiding her feelings. As you dive more into her past, the things that have pushed her to run away are laid out graphically, disturbingly and lively. Jake Whyte has carried this whole feelinglessness to such a level that she doesn't wanna meet, be introduced to, come in contact with or introduce herself to anyone.
In saying that, I must also point out that she doesn't spend her entire time with her dog and sheep. There are people she does get together with rather often, and there's a man called Greg that she sleeps with. But the actual thing is the ones we see but don't know the names of... Probably due to running away from her horrible past, Jake is sure that somebody is stalking her. Is this physically and emotionally damaged woman crazy or is there really a stalker? That you'll have to read and find out. If your heart can handle it, that is...