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The Bass Rock – Evie Wyld

‘Modern Gothic’ almost describes this book. It has the haunting slow-burn of something awful seeping, creeping expanding throughout and I was feeling unsettled as I progressed, but for me, that wasn’t enough. Let me tell you why.

If you don’t know anything about this novel, broadly it’s the story of three women from three moments in history. They’re connected by bloody tragedy, and a house by The Bass Rock. We meet each woman at a particular point in history, Sarah in the 1700’s, Ruth just after World War II and finally Viv, supposedly in the modern day.

For me, and this may have been the intention of the author, but it felt like each woman was written by a different author. I felt absolutely no empathy or connection to Sarah or Ruth. Having just read the novel ‘Rebecca’ (Daphne du Maurier) I was absolutely in the frame of mind for reading women of bygone eras, but I just found these two both so flat. Sarah was forgettable to me and Ruth came across as such a tired and at points tropey template of a silenced, suffering post-war housewife. Even the telling of her story felt tentative and polite. 

Viv, on the other hand..wow. Her story read as detailed and complex and so real. The inclusion of Maggie was a stroke of genius and added layers to Viv’s personality that really brought her to life. To make your readers go on a journey with someone as they mourn a loss, meet new people and learn previously hidden details about their family history and feel as though you’re there right with them is not an easy task. 

Maggie, although hardly a protagonist felt so convincingly familiar in her frailties and her weirdness and her pain that her interactions with Viv taught us a great deal about both women. I thoroughly enjoyed these chapters.

I did not feel the thread of sisterhood that is apparently running through these stories. These three women felt very separate, very disconnected to me and the thread of their common tragedy felt loose and tenuous as not one of them reached outward for a connection to the other, throughout. 

I read this because it was a gift from a dear friend. Based on the hype, I’d have bought it for myself, too. Now that I’ve read it, I feel pretty unsatisfied and like I was promised something that for me, didn’t deliver.

What do you think?

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