Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publication Date: 26th March 2020
Evie Wyld was a new author to me in 2019. I asked on Twitter for some book recommendations surrounding the subject of isolation, somebody suggested All The Birds Singing which I managed to get my hands on and absolutely loved. It made it onto my Best Books Of 2019 list which is here.
When I saw that Evie Wyld had a new book coming out I knew I had to beg, borrow or steal a copy and luckily the lovely Kate Neilan at Vintage hooked me up with a copy. For those of you that already know my reading tastes well, you will know that a story with dual or multiple timeline narratives is my thing. The Bass Rock is told over three separate timelines spanning many many years but all centering around one house in Berwick overshadowed by the Bass Rock.
The story opens with Vivian making the journey from London to her grandmother’s house in Berwick. She has been tasked by her uncle Christopher with the job of sorting out the house after the death of her grandmother in order that it may be sold. The second timeline is post-World War II when Vivian’s grandmother Ruth Hamilton has just moved into the house in Berwick with her new husband and his two sons following the death of his wife. The two sons, Christopher and Michael are often away at boarding school and Ruth spends her days feeling adrift in her new life in the village. She desperately wants to connect with her two stepsons and is anxious not to live in the shadow of her husband’s first wife.
Ruth finds it extremely difficult to make any connections to the villagers and finds that her only ally is Betty who helps out at the house. Ruth and her husband do not have any children of their own and when Betty suggests she bring her young niece to help out at the house as her sister is incarcerated in a local mental facility, Ruth thinks it would be a good idea to have the young girl to look after.
The final timeline is the earliest, whereby a young girl named Sarah has been tarnished with a reputation her mother has of dealing in witchcraft. When￼ crops and cattle begin to fail, all eyes turned to Sarah￼￼￼ and aspersions are cast. It is left down to the local priest and his son to try to save Sarah from the vengeful villagers.
I almost don’t want to say too much about each individual thread of the story because the beauty of this book is discovering how they all interlink. What we have here is a complex family￼￼ history dealing with secrets and long buried emotions￼ which cannot be held at bay any longer.
What we also have interspersed between the three narratives are anonymous stories of women who have suffered terribly at the hands of men over various points in history. These short chapters jolt you out of the main narratives and open your eyes to the horrors that women have suffered due to their sex and social status and standing.
I found that out of the three threads I was most intrigued by Ruth. She is a woman who wants desperately to fit in but also has a rebellious edge, a troubled edge some might say, and she relies increasingly on alcohol to numb her feelings. It was fascinating to hear of Ruth in Vivian’s narrative when Vivian can only remember her as ‘Mrs Hamilton’ a vague memory of a brusque woman from her childhood visits to the house. There is almost a jigsaw puzzle piece missing between the Ruth that we know from her own narrative and the Ruth that is described in Vivian’s memories. She appears to have become a somewhat bitter old woman and having read her story the reader can see why, whereas Vivian struggles to understand.
There is an overarching element of the supernatural in that both Ruth and Vivian experience the feeling of there being a girl in the house who appears in the periphery of their vision. Ruth is at first apprehensive but later goes on to find the girls presence a comfort. Vivian struggles with the idea of there being a ghostly presence in the house where she is staying, mostly alone, but when she finds the connection to the girl she understands that she means no harm.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
Evie Wyld is such a gifted writer and her writing style just hooks you right in. She is a talented storyteller and is brilliant at knitting together dual timelines. I have seen some great reviews of this book and it appears to be fast becoming a firm favourite with a lot of bloggers and readers and I can now count myself as one of them.
This book will definitely be on my books of the year and we’re only in April. I am confident it will be on lots of people’s lists!
Thank you to Kate and Vintage for my copy to review.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx