May 30

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

There is a quiet fury in Evie Wild’s books that obviously appeals to me because I nearly break a leg bolting into the book shop to pick up what she has written the sweet moment it goes on the shelf.

In my review of  the award winning ‘All the Birds Singing’ I wrote Evie Wyld’s writing is wonderful. It is blunt, brutal and savagely evocative and she hasn’t let us down with The Bass Rock.  It’s another searingly powerful read and reconfirms her status as one of Australia’s best writers (her Miles Franklin Award certainly makes it so as well).

This story is about three women who, despite living generations apart, are all connected by the formidable Bass Rock in Scotland.  The rock stands merciless, unmoving and dangerous  – perhaps an analogy for the men in the story.

In it’s shadow are the women.

Sarah, a teenager, is hunted, accused of being a witch in the 1700s.  Ruth arrives at Bass Rock after WW2 to become wife to a newly widowed husband and mother to his two sons, a role she survives with the help of stiff whisky enjoyed from breakfast onwards; and Viv, arrives 60 years later to sort through the house, her father’s belongings and the lost pieces of a long family saga.

As a child Viv  discovers a sodden suitcase near the rock, a suitcase holding the body of a murdered woman and this grisly discovery is where we begin.

With each chapter Wyld carefully moves between Sarah, Ruth and Viv’s stories with a gentle and protective voice while she pokes at the unspeakable, cruel violence and abuse toward women across the ages.  It is so very subtle, sickening, un-neverving and of course it hides in full view whispering page after page – until it roars.

Wild’s prowess is her ability to unsettle you, long after the book is shut and this gothic tale even has a devastatingly sad ghost story perfectly placed to drive home the treachery and secrecy of abuse.

Sarah, Ruth and Viv (and the others) stick with you and when I read I book – fact or fiction – I want that.  I crave characters who are indelible.

After finishing the book, I was left with this vivid imagery. All the women – there are a lot and some are nameless –  were standing on the sand in the shadow of Bass Rock, arms linked, chins forward,  broken but rebellious, as one.

They stood proud. They stood defiant.

But that is just my two cents worth.