The Bass Rock

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Vintage an imprint of Penguin Random House

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other.

In the early 1700s, Sarah, accused of being a witch, flees for her life.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth navigates a new house, a new husband and the strange waters of the local community.

Six decades later, the house stands empty. Viv, mourning the death of her father, catalogues Ruth's belongings and discovers her place in the past—and perhaps a way forward.

Each woman's choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, 'The Bass Rock' burns bright with anger and love.

About the author

Evie Wyld

Evie Wyld

Evie Wyld grew up in Australia and the UK. She is part owner of Review, an independent London bookshop. Her first novel, 'After the Fire, A Still Small Voice', won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. 'All The Birds, Singing' won the Miles Franklin Award, the Encore Award, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, and longlisted for the Stella Prize and the Women's Prize for Fiction. 'The Bass Rock' was longlisted for the Stella Prize.

Judges’ comments

A dazzling exploration of people and places haunted by past crimes, 'The Bass Rock' uses multiple timeframes to convey the continuity and ubiquity of men's sexual violence towards women and children. The story of Sarah, a girl accused of witchcraft in the early 1700s, is juxtaposed with that of Ruth, a new wife negotiating the rules of a patriarchal society in stiff-upper-lip post-war Britain. Ruth and her generation in turn leave emotional legacies that her step-grand-daughter Viv must negotiate as she sifts through, and tries to survive, her family's hidden history of abuse. Part novel of manners, part gothic fiction, 'The Bass Rock' combines pitch-perfect dialogue and sharp social observation with disturbing evocations of physical trauma and psychic unease. Wyld's ravishingly crisp and vibrant prose launches a full-scale assault upon the willed amnesia that allows so many stories of abuse to remain unspoken and unatoned. By turns horrifying and heart-breaking, 'The Bass Rock' is an exceptional novel for the #MeToo era.