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Sunday, 19 April 2020

Book Review: THE BASS ROCK by Evie Wyld


Title: THE BASS ROCK
Author: Evie Wyld
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Read: April 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2


Book Description:


Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other.

In the early 1700s, Sarah, accused of being a witch, flees for her life.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth navigates a new house, a new husband and the strange waters of the local community.

Six decades later, the house stands empty. Viv, mourning the death of her father, catalogues Ruth’s belongings and discovers her place in the past – and perhaps a way forward.

Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with anger and love.

What attracted me to this book:


I loved Evie Wyld’s atmospheric novel ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING and was very excited to read her latest book!


My musings:


As I am sitting here, digesting the story, I am again marvelling at how Wyld can conjure up such an intensely emotional and atmospheric setting with mere words. In this case, parts of the story filled me with dread and foreboding, as they were undoubtedly intended to do, dealing with issues such as murder, domestic abuse and violence against women in general.

The format of the book was unusual, with one timeline set in the present, one in 1950’s and one back in the 1700’s. Two female characters, Viv and Ruth, dominate most of the book, with whole chapters devoted to them. Interspersed with these are short chapters  from the 1700’s (from a male perspective), as well as snapshots of random acts of violence committed against anonymous woman characters. Male dominance features strongly in each timeline, which stoked feelings of anger and infuriation in me at the scenes I witnessed. Some of it was confronting in its brutality and not for the faint hearted! If I found this format unusual at first, I was soon drawn into the story / stories and they had a strange hold on me.


Wyld’s writing is beautiful and poetic, conjuring up both beauty and horror in equal measures and bringing her characters to life. There was even a small hint of the supernatural in the descriptions of the old house perched on the cliff and its ghostly inhabitants – or where they merely a manifestation of the women’s fears and sorrows? This was not a story that focused on any particular central event, but instead catalogued parts of the lives of these women. Once I got used to the story’s gentle ebb and flow, I was hooked. 


Summary:


THE BASS ROCK was a dark, disturbing but also captivating tale that chronicles parts of our central female characters’ lives, featuring themes such as male dominance, murder, madness, domestic abuse and violence against women in general. With her different timelines Wyld demonstrates that the issue of violence against women by male perpetrators has been an ongoing relevant topic for centuries, and is still a theme we need to take seriously. She manages to do so in a clever, subtle way that really got under my skin, by simply showcasing her female characters’ experiences. Written in her hallmark beautiful lyrical prose, the story made for disturbing and yet enchanting reading, burrowing itself deep into my psyche. An unusual but very topical read that will appeal to readers who are not solely focused on a beginning-to-end story.

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