All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld (Jonathan Cape). This has shot to the upper rungs of my best reads of 2013. Jake is a woman with a Past, living in self-imposed isolation on an island off the British coast, being a grumpy shepherd. Something is killing her sheep, however, and it is giving her the willies.
How is this for an opening paragraph;
Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. Crows, their beaks shining, strutting and rasping, and when I waved my stick they flew to the trees and watched, flaring out their wings, singing, if you could call it that. I shoved my boot in Dog’s face to stop him from taking a string of her away with him as a souvenir, and he kept close by my side as I wheeled the carcass out of the field and down into the woolshed.
Wow, eh? That is some powerful stuff. And I love that her dog is simply called Dog. There are so many touches to this novel which just thrilled me – delicate little movements that make it alive. The series fo events that follow on from this moment are only half the story, however. We are also taken back to her life in Australia, which without giving too much away was pretty Dark. I have begun to groan at dual stories; they seem to be everywhere at the moment, and there is usually always one strain that is carrying the other, and I always end up rushing through the weaker strain to get to the good bit. Well, here it is all good bit. What is a little stroke of genius (and which makes this dual-story really work) is that whilst the main thread, with Dog and the murdered sheep, develops in the usual manner, the Australia part goes backwards in time. So what you get at the end of the novel is the beginning and the ending simultaneously. It was fantastic. And it also means that you are looking for different things in each thread – the beginning in one and the end in the other.
Buy it and read it. You will love it.