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the shrew review

The Bass Rock

by Evie Wyld

The Bass Rock is the most recent novel from the Anglo-Australian author Evie Wyld, and the latest in Wyld's interrogation of the ills inflicted by the long and tired history of toxic masculinity. It is a story of three women and the land they inhabited, across three different time periods, all three facing the trials of their time, in particular the tangled threads of male power and aggression that wind themselves around the lives of the women in their orbit. 

 

We meet Viviane in the present day, drifting in her late thirties and venturing to the grand former home of Ruth, her (step-) grandmother who has recently died, to file and sell her possessions. We learn more about Ruth in her strand of chapters, of her life lived largely in the absence of her gaslighting husband in the small, secretive community around her, and their strange relationship with the local priest. The third strand is with Sarah, a young woman on the run hundreds of years earlier, told by the young man who attempts to rescue her. The slow and sinister realisation that he is in reality driven to possess her, all the while referring to his love, begins to feel tragically familiar as Sarah's true fate unfolds. 

 

Like Wyld's earlier novels, The Bass Rock evokes a sense of place with such gentle skill that it's not hard to feel like you're there - standing just beyond the great house, in a gusty wind, watching the mysterious Bass Rock as it's battered by the ruthless sea. There's a strong gothic note to The Bass Rock, caught in the traditional motifs of a large, old, draughty house, a sinister haunting, and the mysterious traces of past crimes and deep unhappiness of those who lived on this land. This is paired with Wyld's grit and a passion for the beaten and rugged land, so the novel has an earthiness to it - the ghosts of past horrors aren't only in the house, they're in the ground, woven into the landscape itself. 

 

This is absolutely one of the most striking books I've read so far this year - I was filled with rage as I turned the last page, and haven't stopped thinking back to it since. 

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