All the Birds, Singing, Evie Wyld, Pantheon Books, 2014, 229 pp
When I finished reading Evie Wyld's first novel, After the Fall, a Still Small Voice, I knew I would be reading every other novel she would write. Some readers like to go to the peaks of forbidding mountains, some to dense jungles or the bottom of the sea. I like the fierce environments of Australia.
All the Birds, Singing takes place both in Australia and on the West coast of England. Lots of sheep, raising and shearing of; plenty of people who are more feral than the animals. Jake Whyte is a woman, a survivor of many of the worst things that can happen to a woman.
When the novel opens on Jake's sheep farm in England, we meet a capable, independent female, devoid of trust, living like a hermit with only her collie (named Dog), a flock of sheep, and the crows. Something or someone is killing her sheep, one by one, inducing a combination of rage and terror in the woman's long dead heart.
In alternating chapters the devastating tale of Jake's life unspools in reverse order. I loved how the author did that. The main tone of Jake's life is terror; how to avoid it, how to escape it, how to not be consumed by it. As the present mystery moves forward, Jake's deeply concealed past moves backward. The tension created is visceral.
The best novels are like this, where the unfolding of the tale creates the reading adventure. They are also the hardest to write about because almost everything I could say would be the most terrible sort of spoiler. I would spoil another reader's experience.
I will just say that Jake Whyte defies mostly all the expectations readers and authors bring to female characters. In fact, she reminded me of Kerewin in The Bone People. In fact, the emotional impact of All the Birds, Singing reminded me of The Bone People.
(All the Birds, Singing is available in hardcover and audio by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)