Marianne's Reviews > The Bass Rock

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
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it was amazing

“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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Reading Progress

November 18, 2019 – Shelved
November 18, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
December 10, 2019 – Started Reading
December 10, 2019 –
page 63
17.12% "Barely 60 pages in and it's clear: this is a great book!!"
December 11, 2019 –
page 85
23.1%
December 12, 2019 –
page 234
63.59%
December 13, 2019 –
page 358
97.28%
December 13, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Dale (new)

Dale Renton My ancestors were farmers in North Berwick many, many years ago. Bass Rock is a very familiar sight to me from childhood, when I used to holiday there. Must take a look at this. Thanks for the great review.


PattyMacDotComma Great review, Marianne. Sounds like a good one.


Gloria Arthur Great review Marianne, I am still confused about the ending 🤷‍♀️


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