Ghost Wall is the first book that I have read by Sarah Moss, and it will likely be her last. Even though I had heard many great things about the author, I did not want to read her books because the subjects in her novels did not interest me. I chose Ghost Wall for my book club because it is pretty short, and the subject matter is relatively different. Unfortunately, the novel fell short of my expectations, and I was not fond of Moss’s language.
Ghost Wall tells the story of archaeology students who wanted to re-enact the lives of people living in the Iron Age in the north of England and a family who joined them in this experience. The book’s main character, Silvie, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the family, meets archaeology students at the camp set up for this experience, becomes aware of different lives, and discovers herself at the same time.
Silvie’s father is a bus driver, but he is highly nationalistic and fond of history. Living the way the old purebred English people lived becomes much more than an experience for this man. As he is already pro-violent and sees women as goods, you will understand that he will not have much difficulty in this experience. As the author often states in the book, the men in the camp hunt and play in nature while the women gather food and maintain the order of the settlement. The only difference from past to present in Ghost Wall is that the women (some of them) make noise and reject the old order.
Ghost Wall deals with subjects such as nationalism, racism, misogyny, primitiveness and patriarchy with a little too clichéd characters. The book’s appeal for me was the atmosphere the archaeology students would create at the camp and how they would re-enact people’s lives in the Iron Age. Although there are experiences about this in the book, I couldn’t find what I was looking for since the subject was not handled very well because it came to the fact that men are disgusting creatures in the end. Also, since the book’s ending was disappointing, I decided not to reread Moss. I cannot recommend it.
Ghost Wall: A haunted landscape. Rituals of the past. A teenage girl in danger. LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION SHORTLISTED FOR THE RSL ONDAATJE PRIZE
‘Ghost Wall grabs you by the guts and never lets go. Dazzling’ Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How To Fail ‘I love this book. Put your life on hold while you finish it’ Maggie O’Farrell, author of Hamnet ‘This book ratcheted the breath out of me so skilfully, that as soon as I’d finished, the only thing I wanted was to read it again’ Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist
Seventeen-year-old Silvie is on a camp in rural Northumberland with her father and a group of scholars, led by an archaeologist with an interest in Iron Age sacrifice. As Silvie glimpses new freedoms with the students, her relationship with her father deteriorates, until the haunting rites of the past begin to bleed into the present. A taut, suspenseful story of ancestry, traces and deep-buried violence that was a Book of the Year in the Sunday Times, Guardian and Observer. ‘An instant classic’ Emma Donoghue, author of Room ‘I loved it’ Bernadine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other
Sarah Moss (born 1975) is an English writer and academic. She has published six novels, as well as a number of non-fiction works and academic texts. Her work has been nominated three times for the Wellcome Book Prize. She was appointed Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at University College Dublin’s School of English, Drama and Film in the Republic of Ireland with effect from September 2020.
Sarah Moss was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and at the age of two moved with her family to Manchester, where she lived until at the age of 18, when she went to study at the University of Oxford. During the ten years she spent in Oxford, she earned a BA, Master of Studies and D.Phil in English Literature, and then held a postdoctoral research fellowship. From 2004 to 2009 she was a lecturer at the University of Kent.
Following the publication in 2009 of her first novel, Cold Earth, Moss went to teach for a year at the University of Iceland. She then took up a post as Senior Lecturer in Literature and Place at Exeter University’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, and subsequently moved to the University of Warwick, becoming Director of the Warwick Writing Programme, teaching creative writing.
Moss’s 2011 novel Night Waking won the Fiction Uncovered Prize. Her non-fiction book Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize in 2013. In 2015 her novel Bodies of Light was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize, and her novels Signs for Lost Children and The Tidal Zone were also shortlisted for the same award in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Her 2018 novel Ghost Wall was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Polari Prize, and was longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: