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all the birds singing, idiopathy

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Old 23rd Dec 2013, 20:12   #1
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Default Cows and sheep: Idiopathy & All The Birds Singing

I’ve recently had a double helping of Book Luck – two novels in a row that I really enjoyed.

Idiopathy by Sam Byers. The darkest of dark humour, with some sharp commentary on self-absorption, self-loathing and the pursuit of personal happiness. There’s plenty of awful behaviour and wilful destruction, but I laughed out loud at intervals, not just because of the savage stuff about social-media ‘celebrities’ and the self-interested environmental campaigner who eventually provides a farcical moment later in the book.

The book centres around the destructive and ultimately very lonely Katherine, who thinks loving and being loved are burdens and that relationships require fear and drama or else become “grey blankness”, and her ex Daniel, who has exhausting, looping arguments with himself about his current girlfriend, Angelica. Daniel and Katherine, whose past arguments - Olympian point-scoring battles - are recounted in excruciating detail, are brought back together when their mutual acquaintance (friend would be stretching it) Nathan comes out of psychiatric hospital and asks to see them again. It’s an uncomfortable mixture of pathos and laughter. I’m looking forward to whatever Mr Byers writes next.

All The Birds Singing
by Evie Wyld. A tough woman called Jake is living a tough life, sheep farming alone in some unnamed island part of England. It’s clear early on that she’s running away from something terrible in her past. In the second chapter the birdlife and a ‘galvo roof’ indicate that she was previously in Australia. This alternating pattern continues throughout the book. In England, moving slowly forwards, the neighbouring farmer urges her to be more sociable, but she prefers life just with her and Dog – despite her nightmares, her conviction that someone is trying to break into the farmhouse at night, and the person or animal that's picking off her sheep one by one – until the mysterious Lloyd, apparently homeless, turns up in her shed one night. Meanwhile in the Australia-set chapters, moving swiftly backwards in time, the grim details of Jake’s past are revealed.

This is a fairly short book light on descriptions and packed with events; the details are unsparing and the language is vivid. Although it’s clear from the outset that a tragedy has occurred, there were surprises along the way.

Now to start the non-festive A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing...
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Old 24th Dec 2013, 15:33   #2
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Default Re: Cows and sheep: Idiopathy & All The Birds Singing

Welcome back, VC2. Idiopathy is a title that's crossed my awareness in the past, although I've got so many unread titles backed up on my Kindle at the moment who knows when I'll ever add to them (plus my family will be throwing "real" books at me over Xmas no doubt!).

Remember, there's no reason at all not to start up separate threads for different books, even if they are quite short reviews, so why not split them up? This is especially true since the Palimp is moving through an extended slow patch in recent times. The more activity we seem to have, the better - fuel the illusion!
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Old 2nd Jan 2014, 12:49   #3
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Default Re: Cows and sheep: Idiopathy & All The Birds Singing

Thanks for the response and I'll post separately from now on, although it was the two hits in a row that prompted me to write to tell you all of my luck!
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