Reviews||

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

7th Nov 2013

★★★★
Evie Wyd All The Birds Singing
Her début novel won the Betty Trask Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, garnering her a place on Granta and The Telegraph's lists of best young authors. So does the new book by Evie Wyld meet those same high standards?

It’s hard not to be biased about Evie Wyld, the twice-published author who works in an independent bookstore in Peckham Rye.

Sure, she is honest that this isn’t a romantic relationship with literature, it’s the realities of being a contemporary novelist, but damned if we aren’t going to give her dues for being true to her passions while earning. Plus, it must be fertile ground to allow for the creation of All the Birds, Singing.

Jake Whyte is a bristly loner, purposefully isolating herself to rear sheep on a remote British island. We enter her life with a sense of foreboding, the area feels pregnant with threat, the locals odd, and sheep on her property are being killed in violent attacks.

It’s just Jake and her pet, Dog. Everything emotional held at a distance, we progress though her farming struggles in real time, interspersed with the slow backwards narrative of her past.

This present is juxtaposed with a past in a remote area of Australia, and as it unravels we find the catalyst that has propelled her so far North is nothing like we might have guessed.This present is juxtaposed with a past in a remote area of Australia, and as it unravels we find the catalyst that has propelled her so far North is nothing like we might have guessed.

It’s hard to work out if you’re supposed to like Jake, or if she is an oddity to be observed. Her strength of character is revealed in a work hardened body, tough, lean and muscular, scars deforming her in places, and as we learn more about her, we see the hardening of her shell to survive her textured past.

There’s an unexpected sensitivity in the exploration of traditionally uncomfortable material too: lonely isolated men, bullying, sex workers, racism.

As an Australian expat, I’ve got my guard up when I stumble into places I have called home in literature. The timeless throbbing chill of a British winter, the jagged edges of an exhaustingly dry summer; these are the extremities of Britain and Australia that are hard to nail without sounding like a whimsical teenage poet.

Evie Wyld, I’m thrilled to say, shows that she knows these lands intimately, avoiding depressing clichés and proving her personal links to both places in the execution.

All the Birds, Singing was published earlier this year by Jonathan Cape, and is available in hardback, paperback or for Kindle.