It takes some effort to get into this novel – which contains two stories told in alternate chapters – but it’s worth it. The narrator – a prickly, suspicious, strong young Australian woman – runs a small sheepholding on an unnamed island off the coast of England. Something is killing her sheep, and the threat of that something underlies the progress of the tale. The other story – how she came to be in England – is told backwards.
The book doesn’t flinch at descriptions of the woman’s work as a prostitute in Darwin and Port Hedland; later she becomes a member of a shearing team. And then there is the mystery of how she acquired scars on her back.
Evie Wyld skilfully weaves the two tales, revealing the tender side of the narrator when she deals with her flock or communicates with her dog. It is not a lighthearted story; Wyld populates bleak landscapes with unpleasant and flawed characters. But this bleakness is leavened by the suspense in both stories, and it will hold readers to the last word.
Recommended for Book Clubs
Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville