Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods? 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 how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past.
The majority of readers look for something special in a novel … something that resounds with them on a different level and transports them to another time, place or world. It is not always about the language, characters or plot. Sometimes it is just the enjoyment of immersing yourself in something other than your own existence.
This preamble comes from the total lack of engagement stirred by All the Birds Singing this month. Highly awarded, (Miles Franklin 2014) this novel failed to move the majority of our group to any emotional level. They found the fluctuating time frames confusing and disorienting, and in the absence of any real connection to Jake, most members got lost in her transitions. They found themselves living outside the story, so to speak.
On the other hand, some members thought The Birds a fantastic read. Poignant and touching with broad emotional scope that leaves the reader with few details but an over-whelming sense of satisfaction.
These differing opinions, as always, created a great discussion and we pondered Jake and her early life, (what circumstances set her on such a destructive path) and the significance of the title.
All the Birds Singing may not be for everyone … literary novels are by nature a specific genre generally unsuited to the masses, but Wyld does deliver something special here and her talent is recognised within these pages, if only for the time you spend there.