Evie Wyld takes out 2021 Stella Prize for "consuming and perplexing book"

Evie Wyld takes out 2021 Stella Prize for ‘consuming and perplexing book’, The Bass Rock

Evie Wyld

Australian novelist Evie Wyld has won this year’s Stella Prize with her third novel, The Bass Rock.

The 40-year old writer, who now lives in London, beat five other female writers to take out the $50,000 Prize, which was presented last night at an event hosted by Noni Hazlehurst AM. 

“To be in the company of writers as talented as the shortlist, and the long-list, has been a massive privilege and there is a huge amount to learn from all of their brilliant books,” Wyld said in a statement.

“I thank them, and I thank my publishers around the world, my literary agent, and the wonderful team at Stella. This prize continues to say loudly that the work of women and non-binary writers matter — for that I am extremely grateful.” 

The award was sponsored by the Wilson Foundation, a charity that teams with experts and communities to deliver improvements to mental health programs.

The Bass Rock is a consuming and perplexing book, one that forces the reader to think and engage with the unique narrative structure,” Chair of the judging panel, Zoya Patel said. “In a way that feels effortless, so engaged are you by the story.” 

“This is a novel that demonstrates the author’s versatility of style, with the separate narrative parts each having an individual voice. And yet, at no point does the book feel disjointed.”

“It is as though Evie Wyld has chosen each and every word with precision, building a novel that is a true work of art.” The novel is Wyld’s third, and centres around a gothic tale of three women across four centuries. 

The story, set across three timelines on the coast of Scotland and titled after a small uninhabited island near Edinburgh, explores the consequences of male violence and the way trauma perpetuates across generations. 

It’s a “a gothic novel, a family saga and a ghost story rolled into one, as well as a sustained shout of anger,” according to The Guardian’s literary critic, Justine Jordan.

“It is a furious and painful reading experience: by page 10 alone, we’ve encountered a woman’s dismembered body in a suitcase, a disquisition on misogynistic advertising and a threatening stranger in a car park.”

The genisus of the book came to Wyld when she had a baby five years ago.

“I was writing when he was asleep,” she told Ursula Kenny, deputy editor of Observer New Review, last year. “A couple of hours in the morning, an hour in the afternoon. I didn’t really have time to sit down and think, you know, what am I working on?”

“I ended up writing lots of different time frames and probably about two other novels underneath this one. I wasn’t even sure if it was all the same book. It was really when #MeToo happened that I saw I was writing about the same thing. The same problem, just a slightly different shape, I suppose.”

Wyld won the 2014 Miles Franklin Award for her second novel, All The Birds, Singing, which was a tale of family secrets set between Australia and a remote English island. 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. 

Wyld is currently co- owner of a small independent bookshop in London, called Review, and also lectures creative writing at Kent University. 

Stella’s Executive Director, Jaclyn Booton, said that the prize demonstrates the power of Australian women’s writing.

“Wyld’s book is a gripping novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Evie Wyld joins eight years of Stella Prize alumni, or as Jess Hill said in her own acceptance speech, “…a group of writers at the height of their craft.” 

In their collective Judges’ Report, the panel said that The Bass Rock was “confronting, chaotic and charming.”

“Wyld’s novel is a perplexingly brilliant novel that will challenge and test the reader. The book blurs the line between the past and the present, the real and the imagined, the natural and the unnatural world.” 

“Wyld’s development of her large and diverse cast of characters is incredibly precise, and the novel continues to surprise to the very last page. This book will leave readers uncertain and questioning, but also full of the imagery and atmosphere Wyld brings to life so masterfully on the page.” 

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