Thursday, November 7, 2013

All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld
All the Birds, Singing

Jonathan Cape, 2013

Jake Whyte, a fit young woman, lives alone with her dog Dog on a farm on one of the British Isles and breeds the sheep. Jake finds the first lamb torn to pieces, and then the second. Who mercilessly kills animals is not clear. Jake suspects foxes, violent adolescents, although it is also possible that behind the killings is some mysterious beast.

Jake lives on her farm as a recluse, not socializing with the locals: does not go to the pub, does not make friends easily, rarely asking for help from Don, a neighbor, who sold her the farm. Therefore, when the sheep begin to disappear, the woman has no one to turn to for help. She goes to the police station, but a policeman does not take her complaint seriously and instead of searching for sheepkillers offers Jake start dating.

This story line that takes place in the present, is developing quite quickly and in a straight chronology. But of Jake’s past we learn gradually, from the chapters of the narrator’s past in Australia, and these chapters are arranged in reverse order, from the adult years before moving to the island to the children's age.

From the chapters of the past, we learn why Jake has scars on her body, why she is sleeping next to a shotgun, why she avoids men at the pub, and why she ran away from her life on the green continent.

All the Birds, Singing is as if in the film «Memento» the main character was replaced by a woman and added some mystique. It’s a very poignant book, which uniquely blends brutality with kind-heartedness. The main character finds a wounded pigeon with a label and calls the owner, but in the excitement she turns kills a pigeon. Jake takes care of sheep and ensures that shearing sheep is not hurt, but she shoots the sheep, when it seems that this is creature in the bushes. She loves her dog, but during the escape she accidentally runs over her kidnapper’s dog.

Jake herself is an unusually fragile person, but with a crack inside. She swears, knows how to shoot a gun, able to fight men back, but blushes when she suddenly blurts out his feelings to Lloyd.
On these joints the entire novel is built. If we take the structure of the book, it can be seen more clearly. The present plot line goes from terrible to more humane, the past plot line - from innocence and simplicity to the horror and deception. In this case, it seems that violence accompanies Jake always and everywhere, wherever it may be, in Australia or Britain.

In this violence lies uncompromising attitude of Evie Wyld. Her novel is an honest portrait of a flawed heroine trying to survive in the tough world. But salvation does not come. Though something strange and inexplicable is coming. You can not escape from the demons, if these demons are inside you.

The novel is written in the first person and in present tense. Chapters about the past are not flashbacks. The heroine does not recall anything, she doesn’t tell her story: the past itself erupts into the present. With every return to the past the narrator experiences physical violence, and the reader simply can not remain indifferent to this terrifying story .

The appearance of a man in the life of the main character makes this book more optimistic, no matter how it may seem. You can exorcize the ghosts of the past, you just can not do it alone. Then the birds will sing.

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