Evie Wyld’s All the Birds Singing is like a beautiful dot-to-dot for grownups, tracing the story of Jake’s life back to the distant past in order to make sense of the present.
The Miles Franklin Literary Award novel begins when Jake discovers one of her sheep has been killed, and she puzzles over whom or what could be responsible. While the mystery is a thread that runs throughout the book, the real question at the heart of the story is what brutal and heart wrenching experiences led her to this point?
These experiences include a terrible decision in Jake’s youth that sees Jake take flight, working on the streets, and later becoming an initially willing captive of one of her clients. Again, she finds herself on the run from after making a dramatic escape.
As she attempts to outrun her demons, Jake finds work on a sheep station where she is the only woman in the shearing shed. It is a brutal existence, where Jake spends her spare time doing push ups to arm herself for the menacing environment in which she lives.
Set in England and Australia, Wyld’s evokes a brutal world in fear is commonplace among man and animal – from the sheep cowering in their enclosure to Jake’s desire to live unseen. However, Jake’s resilience, strength and often carefully concealed gentleness offer some sense of hope.
All the Birds, Singing is a work of darkness that never quite slides into despair, although it teeters on the edge. It also a story of great beauty that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.