The heroine of All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld does push-ups when she’s angry or confused, and as a result she looks big, broad-chested, muscular. Also, her name is Jake. Also, she shears sheep for a living, and if you’ve never wrestled a 300-pound beast while hacking at its skin with large scissors, this is more strenuous labor than you might expect. All of which means that Jake comes across as manly. She likes it that way. It tells certain kinds of men to keep their distance: rough men, who, like Jake, migrate among the sheep stations of Australia, looking for work; and, later, taciturn old men who toil the craggy farms next to hers, on an unnamed British island. Jake just wants to be left alone.
Why Jake flees Australia for Britain is the question at the heart of this book, and it’s also the book’s missing piece. Ingeniously, Wyld builds her novel around this caesura, telling the story in two separate timelines. In the odd-numbered chapters, Jake is isolated on her grim British farm, and something is gruesomely killing her sheep. It could be disaffected teenagers from a nearby town, or it could be a creature that nobody else believes exists. These chapters move forward in time, starting with Jake’s arrival on the island and culminating in a confrontation with the sheep-killer.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld comes out today!
It’s the story of an extremely standoffish girl who flees the rough-and-tumble sheep stations of Australia for a craggy farm in Britain. Why she fled, and how she plans to survive in a world of livestock, sex work, and lifelong guilt, are the questions that burns this story down to the nub, like a candle. Evie Wyld is one of Granta‘s 20 best young writers, and All the Birds, Singing is one of the most gripping books of the year.
We asked the author one question.
How are you celebrating the US publication of All the Birds, Singing?
Evie Wyld: During the day, I’ll be working in my bookshop–I’ve been negligent with the dusting lately and I need to do a stock take, so I’ll be keeping the shutters down and having a spring clean. Exciting times.
I’ve just started mentoring a young woman and we’ll have our first meeting at lunchtime–somewhere in Soho. I’m a bit nervous about it, so it’ll be nice to get the first one out of the way. Afterwards if there’s time, I might go and buy myself some publishing-day boots.
In the evening I’ll be reading at an event called Faber Social with Ben Marcus, Jon McGregor and Sarah Hall. I’m on pretty late so will have to abstain from drinking until afterwards because I can’t read after a drink. But after I’ve finished I’ll be aggressively demanding someone feeds me and gives me drink.
Read the first chapter of All the Birds, Singing here.
Get the book here.
– Brian Hurley