Van has finished reading…All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

4 Mar

It’s a poetic title for a poetic book. My first thought was how extraordinary it is; my second was how quickly it sped by. The writing is so sparse yet there’s never a sense that detail is lacking anywhere – at least not accidentally. Because there’s lots of detail that hasn’t been included. And this is the real feat of this book, I think. The control that Evie Wyld has exerted over her narrative is consummate. The fact is I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, not only because of the good reports it’s garnered, but to see what the author did with this polar dual narrative (I’ve been trying to write a story with a similar timeline for about four years – and I now I can see more holes in what I’ve got than before). The way we follow Jake both backwards and forwards, through the running and the hiding to arrive at places which seem to close the circle yet are so distinct is a thing of rare beauty. And always bouncing off that past narrative is the awareness that we know what followed so the mystery is in what preceded. How that informs the close of the present narrative, how it poses questions beyond the last words, how it throws it into perspective is delightful.
The natural world is ever-present in this book. Birds are unreadable spectators, ever-present commentators on events. A sense of menace lurks with them, something that is wonderfully underlined when a school of sharks are described as flying when seen from below. Nature is danger, unrelenting, inhuman, unforgiving. It can only be glimpsed and it certainly can’t be tamed, no matter how we try. Even the protagonist, Jake, is abstracted; physically strong and capable, yet psychologically mauled and barely communicative, she is closer to animal than is comfortable. The sense of place is palpable too – or perhaps more accurately it’s the sense of no-place. We move alternately from the claustrophobia of a tiny cottage and the hemming English weather to the heat and flat expanse of Australia. Where you’d think the juxtaposition might offer something boundless in the latter, it simply serves to underline the sense of isolation, provide a different kind of closed-in. All that uncrossable space is just as intimidating as the impenetrable fog.
In words, in conception and in execution, this book is a thing of beauty.

All The Birds, Singing was published by Random House in 2013, ISBN:9781742757308
You can find Evie on Twitter @eviewyld and on her website,


One Response to “Van has finished reading…All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld”


  1. Van’s top five reads in 2015 | vanisreading - 07/01/2016

    […] missed Evie Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing on initial publication and made one of those promises to get to it ‘soon’. In March I made a […]

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