Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"All the Birds, Singing" by Evie Wyld

After reading the goliath The Goldfinch, it was nice to follow up with the short, tense mystery that is All the Birds, Singing. Fear and paranoia permeate this novel, which follows Jake, a female sheep herder still fearful of her past catching up with her. This past is revealed slowly to the reader--as half of each chapter chronologically advances Jake's story of living alone with her sheep and Dog, the other half of each chapter jumps chronologically backwards to reveal a single part of Jake's history. Such a structure forces the reader to piece together what has made Jake into the woman she is.

This structure also creates mystery and adds to the paranoia. We know Jake's skittish of men, but it's only slowly that we see what has led her to that place. We also are aware of her independence and strength, yet it becomes clear early that such strength was forged through incredibly harsh necessity.

There's also an element of mystery with a supernatural air (what's been killing Jake's sheep off?) that's never fully resolved. Such a lingering question didn't especially bother me since I felt the real focus was on the human relationships, but it does mean the book lacks a neat ending.

I'd recommend reading the book in as close to one sitting as you can manage (annoyingly, the book became due [and non-renewable] at my library when I was only about 50 pages in. I had to return it and wait a week or so before I could check it out again, which ruined some of the effect!). Doing so helps make the connections between pieces clear and amps up the tension.

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