The 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award winner, All the Birds, Singing is a slow, unsettling and quietly menacing tale of an isolated woman with a terrible past. Someone is stealing the sheep from Jake Whyte's farm, but who? It could be foxes, kids, the mysterious man who has arrived at the farm or something more sinister entirely. Interwoven with this story--which is set on an isolated English isle--is that of a young, Australian woman who is living a life on the run. The parts set in England are in present day, while the Australian parts of the story move backward in time, describing Jake's life on the run until we eventually learn how she got the scars on her back and how her entire life has been shaped--and perhaps ruined--by one silly, teenage mistake.
All the Birds, Singing does not always make for light or easy reading. Much like Tim Winton's In the Winter Dark we are left guessing about some of the sinister forces at work and the author makes some interesting metaphors about bird calls, particularly in the scene where we discover Jake's 'original sin.' As exploration of human nature and how one mistake can lead to many more, however, it makes for wonderful reading and the author tells the story with a good dashing of empathy.