Review: All the Birds, Singing - Evie Wyld
Genre: literary fiction
Published: Vintage publishing, May 2014
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Birds Singing, Everywhere by Evie Wyld is a case that proves that you can’t judge a book by its cover. The beautiful cover and title remind me of spring, but beware going in that this book is dark.
Evidence of these dark tones can be found even in the first chapter, as we meet our protagonist, a reclusive shepherdess, inspecting (and describing in disturbing detail) the carcass of a mutilated sheep. From there, the story splits into two timelines. The first is told chronologically, and follows her isolated life on the British isles, with only her sheep and dog named simply dog as her solitary company. The second is made up of a series of flashbacks and sheds light on Jakes past life experiences and how they drove her to the unconventional lifestyle she picked. Interestingly, this second storyline is told in reverse chronological order, going back in time from an even that changed everything. The structure of the novel, weaving these two contra-chronological storylines together, is one of its strongest assets in my opinion. Although it requires a little effort from the reader at first to understand what’s going on, the execution is very well done, and contrary to my expectations not confusing or distracting. Although it might sound counter-intuitive: knowing the “end” of one of the story lines and working back from there adds a layer of suspense and unease to the reading experience. “Uneasy “ is a word that I think fits this novel quite well, for better and for worse. Once again: Birds Singing, Everywhere is quite a dark read with some heavy subject matter at its core. It reminds me quite a bit of the work of David Vann: hard-hitting work that is beautifully executed , but at times so deeply dark and pessimistic that it can become almost draining to read. For me it’s the book-equivalent of >70% cocoa-chocolate: bitter and absolutely delicious, but best enjoyed one small piece at the time. Too much will make you nauseous and overwhelm you.
This is also my biggest critique of Birds Singing, Everywhere. Where David Vann strikes the perfect balance between “too dark” and “just right”, Evie Wyld went too far with both the brutality, both in themes, as well as with the description of “sheep-gore”. Too often, I got overwhelmed which resulted in me emotionally distancing myself from the story. A repulsed reader is not an engaged reader, and unfortunately I fell in the former category multiple times whilst reading. Other than that minor gripe, this is a beautifully written and hard hitting book. If you want a highly atmospheric and smartly crafted novel and feel comfortable reading about the subject-matter involved: this might be for you. Be warned though: it’s not the best choice for those who are faint of heart of weak of stomach.
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