Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
The Bass Rock tells the story of three women, all living at some point in a house in Scotland, near the Bass Rock: Sarah, in the 1700, accused of witchcraft and fleeing for her life; Ruth, in the years after the war, trying to adapt to a new village and her new husband; and Viviane, sixty years later who’s dealing with the death of her father and emptying the house Ruth used to live in.
The Bass Rock is an exploration of toxic masculinity and its effect on women; it took me a few pages to really get into the story, but after that it was a deeply interesting story and I could not put it down. The lives of these three women are connected by the place near the Bass Rock in Scotland, and by the similarities in what they experience with the violence of men, who seek to control their lives, in some way or another. It was very interesting especially to see the connections between Ruth and Viviane, both having been institutionalized and living with the ghost of, presumably, Sarah.
The Gothic tones of the story is emphasized by the bleak, cold setting of the Scottish village, the violence that you can feel increasing as it goes on and, of course, the ghost. The Bass Rock encompasses gendered violence throughout generations, the emotional and physical damage, from gaslighting to murder. The character of Maggie, Viv’s friend, seems to embody the witch/rage of all women, which is very interesting – she’s angry, she’s free and shameless, and always on high alert. Oh, there are also interludes, a few pages of a story of unnamed women suffering violence in the hands of men, which aren’t part of the story (unless I missed something), but really added an extra layer of rage.
I was impressed by the story and left it a bit stunned – at first I hadn’t realized it would be quite so intense, and I’m furious at how so much of what these women live through echoes our reality so perfectly. I could not connect so well with Sarah’s story, perhaps it’s a bit more removed in time from me and that’s why, or maybe because it was told through the point of view from a boy. Otherwise, this was, as promised by the synopsis, compulsively readable.
There are several trigger warnings for this book, grief, alcoholism, paedophilia and many, many kinds of violence against women. None of it is gratuitous or too graphic, but it’s painful to read nonetheless.