In her award winning 2014 novel, All the Birds, Singing, author Evie Wyld uses our fear of being alone against us, setting her story on a creaking sheep farm on an isolated British island. It’s here that Jake White has chosen to hide from the world, with only her dog and birdsong for company. But when someone, or something, begins killing her stock and terrorising Jake at night, she is forced to acknowledge the past that she is trying so hard to hide from.
Wyld has used a clever literary device to create a compelling read; every second chapter moves Jake’s story backwards in time so that we can piece together her past and the events that led her from living in the Australian outback to owning a sheep farm in England.
There are two sources of horror in Wyld’s dark novel. As well as the sinister something killing her sheep, Jake is plagued with painful memories and her fear of discovery. As the story moves backwards, the reader bears witness to the brutality and violence Jake has suffered at the hands of men. On the run from her hometown, her family, and a violent man named Otto, she has been forced into a rough life, never free, never safe, always on the move.
Bereft of kindness and humanity for so long has left Jake cold. She is unable to even give a name to her only friend, calling him simply, Dog. When a drifter arrives on her property, Jake is spooked, but she begrudgingly allows Lloyd to stay. His lack of bush knowledge is amusing and of no use to her, but perhaps she can sense his internal wounds.
Farming is traditionally a world dominated by men. For Jake its an act of defiance against the men who have restricted her freedom or inflicted violence. The hard physical labour that comes from working with animals is a way she can prove herself and reclaim her strength.
All the Birds, Singing is a stellar mystery with a dark and savage side. Readers will be compelled to discover the truth about Jake’s past and whether she can learn to forgive herself and trust again.