|All the Birds, Singing
"Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding."
From one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists, a stunningly insightful, emotionally powerful new novel about an outsider haunted by an inescapable past: a story of loneliness and survival, guilt and loss, and the power of forgiveness.
Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But there is also Jake's past—hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.
I decided to audiobook this one, which turned out to be pretty good. The narrator isn't that great with the male voices, but overall she fit pretty perfectly for the main character Jake Whyte (Jake is a female). This was another book that came across my lap because of the Tournament of Books, I highly suggest you check out this really cool event. This year I've decided to read as many TOB selections as possible. I'm glad this one landed into my hands because I really enjoyed it. Jake Whyte is a tortured sheep farmer with a tragic past, the story is told in two parts - following her present life and rewinding a tape into her past. Presently, she is taking care of her own sheep on a remote farm while she tries to figure out why her sheep keep dying. Each chapter is followed by one reflecting on her journey up until that point but played backward, the style is really interesting but takes a little time getting used to.
The beauty of All the Birds, Singing is how the story unfolds. At first I was very taken aback by the story because we only see glimpses of the whole picture but as things rewind, we start to get the bigger picture and you can sit back and fully enjoy the ride. I was intrigued as to why Jake wanted to be isolated on this farm, what she had against men, and how she came to be the hardened woman we are first introduced to. Our first trip back into her past starts directly before her escape to the farm, and we already know she is running away from something. Little by little we see who and what she is running from and why her past is more complicated than you'd think. This story has many twists and turns, but the best part is you get scrambled because we have to ride backward to understand how things go forward.
The writing is beautiful, the setting is new and interesting and you can't help but love Jake's unwelcomed companion Lloyd. Surprisingly, All the Birds, Singing has a large amount of comedic relief to the dark and meaty topics that come up. One minute you feel yourself pulling the covers up because Jake is facing something dark and menacing, and then Lloyd comes galloping in and changes the entire feel of the situation. I might not have loved this book as much as I did without Lloyd and ESPECIALLY not without Dog (yes, the dog's name is Dog). My favorite bits had everything to do with Lloyd interacting with Dog by trying to teach him tricks. There was something so charming about Lloyd and his nonchalant way of "sticking" around the farm, like a flea you couldn't get rid of.
I'm really glad I was forced to pick up this book because I know I wouldn't have done otherwise, it's not a topic that screams out to me, "READ ME!", but maybe this review will help you decide to pick it up too. I think it deserves attention and more readers because this Author is one to watch, not many can switch tones at the drop of a pin, and she does it so darn well. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a unique style but can also take or leave the mystery for good prose, if so... you won't be disappointed.
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