Academic journal article Antipodes

A Woman Unhinged, Who Refuses to Be Doomed

Academic journal article Antipodes

A Woman Unhinged, Who Refuses to Be Doomed

Article excerpt

FICTION A woman unhinged, who refuses to be doomed evie Wyld. All the Birds, Singing. new York: Vintage, 2013. 240 p. $18.60 sBn: 978-0345802507.

In the opening pages of evie Wyld's sophomore novel All The Birds, Singing, something has viciously killed one of Jake Whyte's ewes. it lies gutted and mangled, another casualty of an unknown predator that stalks the reader through the remaining chapters. Jake had woken early to walk the field "like a mad-woman, listening to her own voice, the wind shoving it back down and hooting over my open mouth like it had done ever y morning since i moved to the island." it is this haunting voice, which resonates in a backward trajector y throughout the fractured narrative, that echoes through the Australian suburbia of the protagonist's youth, to the windswept pastures of a lonely British isle. this voice is continually pushed back-through her loneliness and isolation, through the emotional wreckage wrought by her troubled sexual awakening, through the charred ruins of her childhood-deep into the center of a woman forever marked by one tragic mistake.

The settings throughout are as rough and wild as the narrator, whose broad shoulders and muscled forearms can wrestle a full-grown sheep for shearing as well as any of her male counterparts. it is the demonstration of her masculinity, in fact, that casts her youthful indiscretions in such stark relief. Her experience as a bullied child and a teenage streetwalker in Australia makes for a strange transition to the sheep farms of the english countryside, but it also makes her a unique female character in contemporary literature. Wyld forces the reader to wait until the end of the book to discover what drove Jake to her island refuge. However, in the alternating sections of flashback and current action, her origin story becomes a kind of beacon, guiding the reader toward an eventuality that is both surprising and inevitable. What results is a mind-bending foray into the dark corners of one woman's bleak consciousness.

Wyld trusts us to follow her on this twisting path. the ref lective sections are written in present tense, stripping the threat of the mystery the odd-numbered chapters carr y through the current moment. these tensions are real and immediate, in contrast to the questionable foe that has been slaughtering Jake's livestock. the bored teenagers of the rural community are the primary suspects, who we can understand might see Jake as an outlier (a woman doing man's work, an introvert in a community that depends on collaboration), and who may be motivated to do her harm. …

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