I saw this book listed on the recently released Stella Prize Long list 2014, and couldn’t wait to read it. By the time I managed to get hold of a copy to read, I thought I had got mixed up about whether it was actually a book by an Australian woman writer. All the publicity on the book only spoke about Evie Wyld running a small independent bookshop in London, and that she has recently been named by “Granta” magazine as one of Britain’s top 20 writers under 40. However, all is well – Wyld was born in Australia, so I can claim this title for my AWW2014 list.
It is obvious that Wyld has lived in both Australia and England because the wilderness areas of both these countries are a main feature of her writing and the story told in this book. The story is about a young woman, Jake Whyte, who is a loaner and almost a recluse who lives on a wild windswept island with only her dog for companionship. She has sheep on her farm, but some of the animals have been mysteriously killed. This is not the sort of reading to hurry – the story evolves slowly, and as the reader progresses further into the book, there are three strands of Jake Whyte’s story to follow. We read about her current life on the wild English island, we read about her possibly recent past life as a prostitute in an outback town and then as a shearer on an outback station, and finally we are also given small hints of her family life and a catastrophic incident that occurred when she was younger.
Jake Whyte is a very private person, who does not encourage much interaction with other people, and as we read her story, alternating between the different times of her life, an understanding of her character is partially revealed. Evie Wyld’s story focuses on the characters and the landscapes and only gives small hints as to how the characters influence each other, but this only adds to the mystery and the beauty of the book. This was definitely a book that I was very sorry to come to the end of, because I was sorry to be leaving Jake’s story and was still not sure of its conclusion. I can’t wait to talk to other readers of this book to hear their ideas about it!