Thursday, August 5, 2021

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Late to this gorgeous, gutting novel and can't really offer anything that hasn't already been said about it. My reflections will be merely admiration and awe: mood, language, storytelling technique.

I requested this read as part of batch of books that could help me hit some reading challenge goals; I opened it up not recalling what it was about. Sheep, it turned out, and the steady tick of choices that push us further and further along.

The novel alternates between moving forward, as Jake tries to keep her sheep alive as something slowly kills them off; and moving backwards, taking us back through the (mis)steps that led Jake to this moment. The technique brings a kind of thriller-ish tension and intensity to the story, which maybe would seem mundane otherwise (solitude, labor, terrible choices, youthful stupidity).

Thomas Hardy first educated me on the many ways sheep are basically impossible to keep alive; and then real life observation confirmed it. Still, I prefer sheep to goats although I'm not the one who has to work with them. (My wife is Team Goat.)

All this is to say, Wyld writes about sheep, and everything involved with them, in a way that is horrifying while being ordinary. She's accurate, but she's also poetical about shearing and slaughtering. It's disquieting and pretty. In this book, sheep and their senseless inability to keep themselves out of trouble is a parallel, perhaps, to the actions of our main character, Jake. Unlike her sheep, however, Jake is brave and resourceful and cautious. She's learned from her injuries and her mistakes.

I can't stop thinking about this book, and I'm talking about it to everyone who makes eye contact with me. I've no doubt it'll make my top 10 for this year.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Vintage, 2015
Copy via my public library
Reading Women Challenge - Task 18, Rural Setting

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