Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past.
Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
On a nameless island where the wind and rain are unrelenting, Jake Whyte lives alone but for her dog and her flock of sheep, away from other people and clearly in some way damaged. But fear sets in when something starts savaging her sheep, and even invading her house, though she can never work out what it is or manage to confront it. Gradually she begins to trust a few other people as she tries to deal with the threat to her sheep and possibly even to herself.
Only when we learn something of Jake’s former life in faraway Australia do we begin to think that the nameless beast might be somehow connected with her own past. Wyld structures and paces the story with extraordinary skill, revealing Jake’s former life one detail at a time in a slow burn that only catches fire at the very end of the novel, where we learn the full extent of her guilt and dread, and realise with hindsight that one of this book’s subjects is the destructive force of jealousy and thwarted love. The novel is a gripping and compelling read; its Gothic elements make it powerfully atmospheric and spooky, and the reader is irresistibly carried along by the flawless pacing of a mystery and its revelation.