The Bass Rock: Book summary and reviews of The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

The Bass Rock

by Evie Wyld

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld X
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
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Book Summary

The lives of three women weave together across centuries in the dazzling new book from the Granta Best of Young British Novelist and author of All the Birds, Singing.

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has always borne witness to the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries, the fates of three women are inextricably linked to this place and to one another.

Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life.

Ruth, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community.

Six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloguing Ruth's belongings in the now-empty house.

As each woman's story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with love and fury--a devastating indictment of violence against women and an empowering portrait of their resilience through the ages.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Time and time again, Wyld artfully proves the female body knows (even if the mind won't accept) the dangers lurking all around. A haunting survival tale that lingers long after the last page." - Kirkus Reviews

"A gothic novel, a family saga and a ghost story rolled into one...Psychologically fearless...Searingly controlled...Wyld is a genius of contrasting voices and revealed connections." - The Guardian (UK)

"The modern sections feel a little like Ali Smith's novels crossed with the TV series Fleabag...There's much to admire in its little miracles of observation...Wyld is also wonderful at describing moments of sudden lust and violence. And she knows how to maintain suspense, what to withhold and when to reveal it—right up to the spine-chilling last line." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"A multilayered masterpiece; vivid, chilling, leaping jubilantly through space and time, it's a jaw dropping novel that confirms Wyld as one of our most gifted young writers." - Alex Preston, Observer (UK)

"Wyld is unhesitatingly brave in her writing...Her delineation of the [post-war] era is cut-glass perfect...Her prose shines, even as it devours." - Financial Times (UK)

"Amazingly good. The Bass Rock will fill the air around you with angry ghosts and you will be glad to be in their company." - Adam Foulds, Booker Finalist, author of The Quickening Maze

"The Bass Rock is a bewitching and atmospheric novel, laced with dread. It reveals the haunted house of society, with all its echoes of damaged and extinguished lives, but is also illuminated by beautiful observation about people, and the timelessness of their capacity for both violence and empathy." - James Scudamore, author of Heliopolis

"A dark, gristly marvel of a novel. The Bass Rock held me in thrall from cover to cover. Evie Wyld is a gothic genius: her narrative of the violence inflicted on women throughout the centuries and the seething, female anger left in its wake left me with a deep sense of disquiet that will doubtless remain for years to come." - Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites

This information about The Bass Rock shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

a brilliant read
“There is such stillness in that small wood where my grandmother died that it catches my breath, I feel I am looking up into space or into a deep high-ceilinged crevasse. ‘Hello!’ I call, just to hear if my voice echoes back. It does, three times.”

The Bass Rock is the third novel by award-winning British-Australian author, Evie Wyld. In post-war Britain, newly-married Ruth Hamilton finds herself in an oversized house in a village in North Berwick, Scotland. She tries, when they are home from boarding school, to connect with her step-sons, and to please her demanding, frequently-absent husband, but measuring up to the beloved wife and mother whom they lost proves discouraging.

It’s a far cry from her existence in London, and she still sorely misses the brother who perished in the war. Ruth finds the village claustrophobic and its traditions less than wholesome. Is the vicar simply a harmless, overenthusiastic lunatic? The person she can best relate to is the house-keeper she inherited with the house. Ruth senses a presence in the house, a feeling shared by her housekeeper’s niece.

Decades later, Viviane Hamilton is conducting an inventory so that her grandmother’s house can be sold. As a favour to her uncle, she stays on to keep the place looking lived in. As she sorts through her grandmother’s possessions, she uncovers traces of the woman about whom her own mother has been frustratingly reticent. Viv, too, senses a presence, although she can’t be sure if it’s part of her own mental problems.

In early eighteenth-century Scotland, Sarah has been branded with the taint of her mother’s unconventional lifestyle. When harvests fail and livestock sickens, the villagers, convinced she is a witch, want to burn her. Their priest and his son rescue her and flee through the woods towards the coast.

The three clearly distinguished main narrative strands are arranged in a nested format and these nests are interspersed with short, anonymous pieces that graphically illustrate the fate of women who sometimes make poor choices but are often simply at a disadvantage due to their gender.

This tale of murder, mental, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence illustrates the ongoing powerlessness of women and children in a patriarchal society. But there is also love and loyalty and friendship, and it highlights the resilience of women who support each other and don’t accept the old lie: that mentality that encourages male privilege without challenge. And a certain odious character does meet a deserving fate.

Echoes of each narrative appear in the others. Viviane’s inner monologue and her conversations are often a source of dark humour. Wyld’s prose is often exquisite: “It rains through the night and all day, but it is not cold. The air is heavy, in the early parts of the morning, like a blanket weighing on us. The loud patter of drops on leaves and the way it moves the scrub around us, jumping off the spring-green growth, weighing down the branches, makes me think of us moving across the belly of a gigantic scaled beast, warmed by its blood.” This is a brilliant read and fans of this talented author will not be disappointed.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Better Reading Preview and Penguin Random House Australia

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Author Information

Evie Wyld Author Biography

Photo: Fiona Fletcher

Evie Wyld was born in London and grew up in Australia and South London. She studied creative writing at Bath Spa and Goldsmiths University. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin literary award. In 2013 she was included on Granta Magazine's once a decade Best of Young British Novelists list.

Her second novel All the Birds, Singing won the Miles Franklin Award, the Encore Award and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Sky Arts Times Breakthrough Award and longlisted for the Stella Prize and the Bailey's Women's Prize for ...

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