As each woman’s story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life.
... wondrous and disturbing ... There are quite a number of plot points in this book, and a great deal of structural ingenuity ... beautiful prose—observant, melodic, imaginative ... The book’s spirit feels most anchored in Ruth’s section, though Viviane’s is vital and provides most of the book’s oxygenating levity ... The message it leaves you with—down to its expertly chilling final line—is certainly dark. But in delivering it, Wyld consistently entertains, juggling the pleasures of several different genres. There’s something alchemical in the way that, with hardly a clumsy step, she draws on elements of eerie natural horror...and the supernatural...alongside any number of other motifs ... if, toward the end, I felt that the novel’s spectral elements simmered on a heat that could be lowered by 20 percent or so, that’s simply personal taste. Wyld essentially pulls it off, the way she pulls off nearly everything.
... in the hands of a more conventional writer, the effect would be repellent. But throughout Ms. Wyld’s fiction, which transcends the category of either horror or crime, such visceral images, always sparingly employed, have a mesmerizing force that is instantly felt and eerily sustained. Whether the location is the Australian outback (“After the Fire, a Still Small Voice”), rural England and Australia or coastal Scotland, this author seizes her readers with the swift grace of the wild predators she often describes, then sets them down on terrain so richly imagined it seems to fill the senses ... an expertly layered, quietly suspenseful novel that alights now in the past, now in the present, to reveal—as delicately as that blowing sand might—a family’s most intimate secrets and crimes ... a graceful serpentine pattern woven by a consummately sly storyteller ... Some of the finest scenes in “The Bass Rock” are those that capture the mentality and manners of the English gentry ... Ms. Wyld stages a plot twist as inevitable as it is shocking, a maneuver at which she excels ... these lurid digressions, for all their potency, seem more symbolic than profound, unlike the modern homicide—a crime elliptically yet chillingly evoked—that explains the hideous suitcase found on the seashore in the opening scene ... an appropriately muted—and terrifying—conclusion to a fervent yet shrewdly restrained novel in which an evil left to our imagination is as shocking as an open wound.
I would like to say I enjoyed this novel, but enjoyment would seem to be a singularly inappropriate response to it. It is a kind of lure, and it deals with ideas of luring in quite remarkable ways. Wyld’s previous two novels were both artfully constructed...This book is as equally ingenious, if not more so. The virtue of this kind of dislocated narration is that it allows the novelist to withhold information, to make the reader speculate on possible connections and how the different parts of the story interlock. It is a high-risk strategy: too neat and it seems like clockwork, too many loose threads and it seems ill-conceived. But here it is done with a very judicious blend of revelation and mystery ... It takes no small amount of skill to juggle such a structure. Through it all, the Bass Rock of the title glowers, eerily close and distant at the same time ... Wyld lures the reader into what might have been any other split-time frame, slightly quirky novel and then lets rip. As the men lure the women, the writer lures the reader ... What is very clever indeed is to use the gothic as part of this bold book. In effect, it is as much as disguise as a predator’s balaclava. The gothic allows for a certain comfort zone, that horrors are supernatural, that the nasty thing in the woodshed is a ghost or a goblin. No, the nasty thing is a human man. There is a decent man in the book, and he is a lush, and berates himself for not being a murderer. Wyld has constructed an elaborate trap. It is not about millennial angst, or post-war stifled politeness, or historical witchery. It is about the war that seems unending ... With each novel, Wyld gets better and better. I will personally snub anyone who dismisses this book as a #MeToo novel. It is – importantly – written with dreadful clarity.