Three women from three different eras, all with something in common – none of them fit into societies ideals. Sarah, living in the 1700s, is branded a witch; Ruth, in the aftermath of World War 2, finds herself in North Berwick, on Scotland’s east coast, the second wife of a widow and now stepmother to his two children; Viviane, in today’s times, has suffered a breakdown and continues to make poor life choices. She finds herself in her grandmother’s old house clearing out her belongings before the North Berwick home is sold.
Evie Wyld’s prose takes the reader into the minds and lives of all three women intermittently and links them all to the rugged coastline, the titular Bass Rock looming over them as they navigate the paths their lives have taken them on, each negatively affected by the men around them.
The prologue foreshadows the outcome of the book – a body found in a suitcase on a beach: “I saw two fingers tipped with red nails and one grey knuckle where a third finger should have been.” From there the reader must work almost backwards to untangle what it could all possibly mean.
Wyld portrays three worlds where violence against women is justified and in doing so provokes a response from the reader who knows so clearly that it is not acceptable, and yet that none of what the female characters face in her pages is too far from the truth. These could just as easily be real women in real houses all around the UK and beyond and that is not okay. However, although the reader has sympathy with all three women, all have traits which make them at times unlikeable. Perhaps what Wyld is trying to portray is that just because a woman may act in a way someone doesn’t like still makes the violence abhorrent.
Whatever her reasoning Wyld has written an absorbing story and intricately weaved different timeframes and complex familial and marital relationships into it. The Bass Rock is a work very much in keeping with the ingrained misogyny society is finally starting to take a long hard look at.