I really loved the structure and think it added to the creepy feeling that hung over the whole thing. Did it work for you? Do you remember the moment you figured out we were working with both a backward and forward timeline?
At first, I was SUPER confused, and had no idea what exactly was happening. I can’t remember the exact moment it clicked for me, but when it did, I was SO there. I kind of like the feeling of not really knowing what is going on, and sensing the need to tread lightly when reading…. makes for a more interesting experience.
Bingo! I love knowing I can’t just breeze through a book.
I sensed pretty quickly that we were hearing Jake’s story past and present so that wasn’t problematic. For me, the aspect of structure that affected me the most from the beginning was the sense of danger and dread and Jake as both an ominous character and a victim. From the very first page I felt as if her story was not adding up and as it’s first person, I was cautious from that point on—how unreliable a narrator was she going to be?
I figured it out fairly quickly as well and thought that it was a stroke of genius. It allowed for Wyld to hold the whole book at a point of tension that was just right. I also agree that it allowed for Jake to be both victim and villain, which was delicious for me as well.
Did you find the structure made it feel disjointed? I know that was one major complaint I heard. Not necessarily that it was hard to follow, because we know in a way it’s meant to be, but that it didn’t end up feeling like a complete story.
I agree. I thought the two stories—past and present—would converge somehow in the end, and they never really did. I mean, I know they were about the same person, so they’re linked in that way…. but more like, something in the past would come up again in the present, to tie it all together.
Let’s talk sheep. What are our ideas on what is killing the sheep on the island?
I think Jake was killing the sheep. However, that still doesn’t explain the ending, in terms of what in the H-E-double hockey sticks Lloyd sees in the woods in the final few sentences. Obviously, Jake is in a highly fragile state emotionally and psychologically, and I think she may be the most logical culprit as sheep-killer. Yes? No?
I agree that she seems to make the most sense, especially given what we know about her as a character. What do you think about the beast, then? Is it real or something Jake’s constructed to aid in this story she’s creating for herself? And what should we take from the fact that Lloyd acknowledges it?
The sheep were the least of my concerns. In fact, after I finished I didn’t even think about them. But Lloyd and the beast? For me, that was the tipping point and whatever delusions she was living under, became real.
The fact that Lloyd sees it too is the kicker for me… and what throws a wrench in my theory. I could easily be convinced that Jake is seeing things, but Lloyd seems, albeit not normal, but certainly more rooted in reality, and it’s unlikely they would be seeing the same imaginary thing. Very mysterious….
I agree as well that Jake is the likely to be the sheep killer. As for the beast—I think it was something of her own construct, the first time I got that feeling was when she was in the bathtub. I’m not completely sure that Lloyd is real. He’s the first man that she’s trusted in years, up to and including the shopkeeper on the island. He shows up with ashes to spread, but the reader (and Jake) is never told who they are. Could she be living in an asylum back in Australia?
Innnnteresting. I was thinking more that Lloyd was a solid base who understood what she was going through and was willing to “see” what she saw in order to help her through.
I like that too! All my wishy washy-ness goes back to my ‘What the what?!’ reaction I had when I finished All the Birds.
Let’s go back to the structure for a second, because it kind of ties into the sheep. As much as I loved this book, I’m not sure the actual reveal of Jake burning the town lived up to the tension it caused for me. I thought it was really smart of Wyld to end the book with the ambiguity of the situation with Jake and Lloyd. Without that, I think things would have been a little lacking.
I am all for ambiguity most of the time, but agree there was something unsettling about this ending… or lots of things, rather. I think the book should have ended without the final chapter. Go back and reread the second to last chapter… I’ll wait…. There still would have been a sense of mystery, and a kind of unfinishedness of the novel, but significantly less “what the what!?!” with no sense resolution.
I disagree! The last chapter added a beginning to Jake’s story, normal kid, normal family—the catalyst to her unhappiness was the fire. But I took your advice and did re-read those last two chapters and noticed the last line of the book “…this is how life will always be, and I will always be here.” Could this be a nod to my own little theory that Jake has never made it out of Australia and at least her life on the island is a complete fabrication of her broken mind?
For me, the toughest part of the novel was the lack of resolution in any of Jake’s stories. We know about Otto but did she kill him or just escape? And Greg, the sheep shearer who cared about her—what happened to him? Lloyd says “I just thought it might make you feel a little odd that I just turned up.” Turned up from where? It makes it sound as if he knows her. I’m all for ambiguity but this novel is nothing but ambiguity. So maybe the fact that the fire seems to be the hard truth means that everything after that is in her head. Maybe?
That’s an interesting thought. I’m not sure I think everything else is in her head, but I do think the ambiguity and structure is intentional—maybe a way of showing how PTSD can feel?
I also like that! PTSD can be very disjointed with sometimes something as simple as a smell being a trigger for something, but at the same time I didn’t feel like it was quite disjointed enough to necessarily fill that function. I didn’t notice the lack of resolution in the other stories until Catherine brought it up, I guess I was really focused on the forward momentum of what was happening to present day Jake.
Despite all the ambiguity, the one thing that was pretty solid for me was the amazing atmosphere. It was like I could feel how damp everything was. I guess it goes back to that ominous feeling set up by the structure, but Wyld was doing some pretty fabulous writing in general.
I am totally with you on the atmosphere. The way everything was described, my heart was literally pounding, my hands were sweating, I was extremely anxious during my reading of many of the scenes. It’s pretty great when a book can suck you in so completely, that you experience physical effects!
The atmosphere was great. As I mentioned earlier the sense of danger was omnipresent. Wyld sets the book up to read like a Stephen King novel—isolated house, loud unexplained noises, shadows…it gets inside your head!
I guess we’re going to have to rely on our readers to provide some dissent on this book because I agree too! I loved this atmosphere that Wyld created. I was sure that mold was starting to grow underneath me with all the dampness in the parts of the novel that were about Jake’s present. Speaking of all that dampness, did anyone find that to be an interesting contrast with the fact that the catalyst for her life as it became was the accidental burning of the town in Australia?
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Some things that we haven’t touched on, but are going to throw out there for other discussion points. Australians! Do you see any connection with this novel and the history of Australia? (We ask this as American ladies.) What do you think Wyld is suggesting with the strong theme of isolation that runs through the novel? What’s the deal with the birds in the novel? Do they symbolize something? Do names have any significance in All the Birds? Think about Jake being a woman, Clare being a man, and the dog being, well, Dog.