Thursday, May 1, 2014

book review: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

The backstory: All the Birds, Singing, the second novel by Australian author Evie Wyld, was longlisted for the 2014 Baileys Prize.

The basics: Jake lives on a sheep farm in England, where she mostly sticks to herself and with her dog, Dog. She's clearly running from her past, which adds a bit of mystery, and the action shifts between flashbacks to the past and the present.

My thoughts: All the Birds, Singing is a book I wanted to like more than I liked. Perhaps I read it at the wrong time, but I struggled to get through this slim volume. If experimental nature fiction is a genre, then this novel is it. On the whole, I felt this novel was disjointed. Most obviously, the narrative is intentionally disjointed, as the action shifts (often awkwardly for this reader) between time periods, but without clear markers. From the first pages, there's an assumption the narrator won't tell this story from the beginning and expects the reader to make sense of the characters and events as time goes on. Characters aren't introduced in the traditional sense; instead they appear and become part of the puzzle of figuring out. As I read, I couldn't shake the feeling I was missing things. I didn't understand the significance of people and events, and I struggled to follow the narrative.

As the novel began to come together, I was underwhelmed. For Wyld to attempt such clever storytelling, I expected more of a pay off, but I found the novel fizzled rather than sizzled. Admittedly, as I struggled to keep characters, time, and places separate, I could have missed the crucial connections Wyld wanted her readers to make.

The verdict: It's clear I didn't enjoy All the Birds, Singing, but I think some readers would delight in this experimental nature fiction. While I didn't enjoy the experience of reading it, I do still want to read Wyld's much-acclaimed first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, and I loved this recent interview Wyld.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 241 pages
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy All the Birds, Singing from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Evie Wyld's website and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. I felt the same way about this book. Because of that, I didn't finish it. I may start it again one day. Glad I'm not the only one.

    1. I think if it weren't on the Bailey's list AND weren't so short, I may not have finished it either. This book seems to be either a love it or hate it, doesn't it?

  2. This! "as the action shifts (often awkwardly for this reader) between time periods." This could make me not pick it up at all. I'm SO SICK of shifts. Shifting time periods. Shifting perspectives. Blahhhggghh. Its' become such an overused convention.


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