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All the Birds, Singing (Wyld)

All the Birds, Singing 
Evie Wyld, 2013 (UK), 2014 (US)
Knopf Doubleday
240 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780307907769



Summary
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 rain and battering wind. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wants it to be.

But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sounds a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, and rumors of an obscure, formidable beast.

And 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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1980
Where—New South Wales, Australia
• Raised—Peckham, England, UK
Education—B.A., Bath Spa University; M.A., University of London
Awards—John Llewellyn-Rhys Prize, Betty Trask Award
Currently—lives in Brixton (London), England

Born in 1980, Evie Wyld grew up on her grandparents' Sugar Cane farm in New South Wales although spent most of her grown-up life in Peckham, England. At two she suffered from a near fatal bout of viral encephalitis and recounts the story in The Guardian.

She obtained a B.A. from Bath Spa University and an M.A. from Goldsmiths, University of London, both in Creative Writing.

Wyld is the author of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and Betty Trask Award winning novel After the Fire, A Still Small Voice (2009) and All the Birds, Singing (2013), which has been short-listed for the Costa Awards.

In 2010 she was listed by the Daily Telegraph as one of the twenty best British authors under the age of 40. In 2011 she was listed by the BBC's Culture Show as one of the 12 Best New British Writers. And in 2013 she was included on the once a decade Granta Best of Young British Novelists List.

Her novels have been shortlisted for the The Costa Novel Prize, The Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Orange Award for New Writers, the Dublin International IMPAC Prize, The Sky Arts Breakthrough Award, The James Tait Black Prize, and The Author's Club Prize. She was long listed for the Stella Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

She took over from Nii Parkes as Booktrust's online 'Writer in Residence' in 2010 before passing the baton on to Polly Dunbar.

Wyld now lives in Brixton (South West London) and works at an independent bookshop in Peckham.
(From Wikipedia. Retrieved 6/14/2014 .)



Book Reviews
If the novel sounds forbiddingly dark, it’s not. It’s swift and assured and emotionally wrenching. You won’t only root for Jake, you’ll see the world, hard facts and all, more clearly through her telling. There’s hope at the end, and wit, and friendship.
Maile Meloys - New York Times Book Review


Wyld teasingly leads readers to the mysterious incident Jake is trying to escape.... Pungent with menace.
Wall Street Journal


Daring and fierce, this is a book that makes you feel the need to look over your shoulder in case something dark and hulking might be gaining on you.... Brilliantly unsettling.
Boston Globe


Gloriously gruesome.... Half of you wants to race through to find out what happens, half wants to pause over the dark, clotted sentences. And then the state of suspense becomes almost unbearable, and you rush through, feeling like you are sprinting through a museum of sinister curiosities, too frightened to linger.... The final revelation, when it comes, is explosive.
NPR


A tremendous achievement.... A dark, powerfully disturbing and beautifully observed story...almost Nabokovian in its structural intricacy.
William Boyd - New Statesman


Outstanding.... Evie Wyld is the real thing.... She reconfigures the conventions of storytelling with a sure-footedness and ambition which belie her age.... Quite as good as Ian McEwan’s early fiction.
Spectator (UK)
 

Extraordinarily accomplished, one of those books that tears around in your cerebellum like a dark firework, and which, upon finishing, you immediately want to pick up again.
Financial Times (UK)


In the searing second novel from Wyld, the past takes real and imagined forms, all terrifying, in its protagonist’s life.... It is a testament to Wyld’s vivid storytelling that readers will feel determined to drag themselves through her tale’s more unsavory moments to its final revelation.
Publishers Weekly


Wyld has masterfully created a novel with an unusual structure that nevertheless feels natural, a dark, eerie undertone that delivers gripping suspense, and subject matter that can get grim and even hard to read yet never makes the story feel depressing.... [T]rust Wyld, she will quickly draw you in; a true pleasure to read. —Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Library Journal


(Starred review.) The tricky narrative strategy has given Jake a past but not developed a full character.... Wyld has ordained a permanently dark life for her protagonist, a stubborn fate that offsets the surprises and the reader's enjoyment.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The story opens with Jake’s present life. We learn about her past in a backwards progression. How does this affect your reading of the book?

2. Jake lives alone and away from others in a self-imposed hermitage: from fear, for protection, out of habit. What is the difference between being alone and being lonely? Do you think Jake is lonely?

3. Jake has run away from home, family, and safety to escape something terrible she has done. What do you think the consequences would have been if she had stayed?

4. Have you ever kept an experience in your past a secret from people you know? What does keeping secrets do to a person?

5. Is Jake’s terror of being caught in proportion to what she has done? Does the fear get bigger the farther away she goes? Will it ever go away?

6. The crows calling over the mangled sheep on the island, the carrier pigeon that Jake squeezes just a bit too hard, and, of course, the birds from the final passage of Jake’s revealed past: within this work, birds are often associated with death. What other symbols do you find in this story?

7. Describe Jake’s relationship with Karen. Who is stronger? Who is saving whom?

8. How did Jake end up with Otto? When/why/how does he change?

9. Why does Jake stay with Otto for so long? What do you think would happen if he ever did find her, and do you think he’s actively looking?

10. While at the sheep ranch, Jake finds temporary safety with Greg. What makes him different from the men she’s known to that point? Why does she leave him?

11. On the island, Jake visits some of the local places. There’s the small shop to buy oranges, the teahouse for a Devon cream: What does Jake get from these places? Do you think it makes a difference that these shopkeepers are women?

12. While Jake is on the ranch in Australia, one of the rams is killed by an animal, and Jake later sees a dark shape dart into her room. It is doglike, and she immediately thinks of Otto’s dog, Kelly. How does this fear follow her to England?

13. While Jake is in England, something is killing her sheep. The reader never finds out what it is, but in the end, Lloyd sees it, too. Is it real? What do you think it is?

14. One of the shearers kills a dying ram: “One second horribly wounded, feeling flies lay their eggs in your flesh and watching the currawong circle, and the next, in a flash, all is safe. I will learn to fire a gun, I think, they are the answer” (p. 25). In what other ways does Jake try to find safety?

15. Discuss the character of Lloyd. Who is he and what does he want? How does he affect Jake?

16. Why does Jake let Lloyd stay with her?

17. The hammer under the bed, the axe by the refrigerator, the gun in the cupboard, the walking stick by the door. Can these things protect Jake from what she fears?

18. When all is revealed at the end, from the truth behind her scars to her own responsibility in the affair, how does that fit in with the Jake you know already?

19. What is Jake most afraid of? The past? Otto? Guilt? Herself?

20. What do you think Jake is ultimately looking for?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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