Review: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Title: Ghost Wall

Author: Sarah Moss

Pages: 160 Pages

Publisher: Granta

The Blurb

The light blinds you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

The Review

I would love to say it is rare that I have a verbal outburst when reading a book but it really isn’t. I get so lost in them that I often tell the characters what I think they should do or what I think of them. However, it has been a long time since I repeatedly yelled at a character or cursed their very existence but that is exactly what Sarah Moss had me doing when I read Ghost Wall.

Ghost Wall is the story of Silvie. She is young, impressionable and kept naïve and held back by her father and his stern patriarchal beliefs – women should do the domestic stuff and men are hunters and gatherers. If you don’t like his rules, well you better keep it to yourself because there will be consequences.

It is on a trip across Britain’s countryside that Silvie realises that life shouldn’t be this way. But how is she supposed to break away from her father’s rules?

I didn’t think I would have such a strong reaction to Ghost Wall based on just the premise from the blurb and the cover but it is a book that – long after I have finished it – that I still think of it; think of the sinister relationship with her father and his relationship with history.

It is not for the fainthearted and there are some triggering subjects that feature within its pages but Ghost Wall is a book I would encourage everyone to read because it is powerful.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss is available now.

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