Ghost Wall
Teenage Silvie is living in a remote Northumberland camp as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is an abusive man, obsessed with recreating the discomfort, brutality and harshness of Iron Age life. Behind and ahead of Silvie's narrative is the story of a bog girl, a sacrifice, a woman killed by those closest to her, and as the hot summer builds to a terrifying climax, Silvie and the Bog girl are in ever more terrifying proximity.

Ghost Wall Details

TitleGhost Wall
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 20th, 2018
PublisherGranta Books
ISBN-139781783784455
Rating
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction

Ghost Wall Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ‘’Darkness was a long time coming.’’ This book is my first contact with Sarah Moss’s writing and it proved to be so fascinating...The word Ghost in the title, the bogs and Northumberland drew my attention to a novel that I read in a single sitting. It was mystifying, hypnotic, complex, powerful.It is an unusually hot summer in Northumberland. Silvie and her parents are following a professor and his students in a camp that tries to imitate the daily life during the Iron Age. However, things star ‘’Darkness was a long time coming.’’ This book is my first contact with Sarah Moss’s writing and it proved to be so fascinating...The word Ghost in the title, the bogs and Northumberland drew my attention to a novel that I read in a single sitting. It was mystifying, hypnotic, complex, powerful.It is an unusually hot summer in Northumberland. Silvie and her parents are following a professor and his students in a camp that tries to imitate the daily life during the Iron Age. However, things start going wrong and the camp becomes a field for repressed feeling and the need for justice. Silvie is at the heart of this peculiar, dark storm. ‘’The shadows were long in the grass, the whole moorland low and still in slanting yellow light. In the east the trees stood dark against the sky and all the colours were fading. A late flight of birds winged the air, homeward bound.’’ The writing is extremely beautiful, difficult, demanding as the story is told in long sentences, a technique that makes the atmosphere even more threatening, almost ruthless. At certain times, reading felt painful. Moss uses the richness of the history in the area to create a mystical scenery. Hadrian’s Wall, the wild nature, the ravens coaxing a shadowy future and, above all, the bogs and the sacrificed souls that found an untimely, tragic death in an era of darkness.Darkness and ignorance are two central themes in the story because Moss focuses in the way Silvie’s father, Bill, uses History to justify and express his cruelty and violence over his family, his desire to control everything and everyone. Ignorance in the form of all the prejudices against the people from the North, their accent and mentality. On a more positive note, Moss includes a brief reference to Berlin (...wait for me, you beautiful city, I’ll see you next August! ) and the fall of the Berlin Wall, another vile creation of the human race that so loves to divide and sacrifice, and much less to unite and create.Silvie is a ray of light in the bleakness and pain of the story. Her name is supposedly a diminutive of Sulevia, a goddess of springs and woods. A name chosen by Bill who fails to notice (obviously…) that the origin of the name is extremely Roman. So, Bill is actually the epitome of the culturally illiterate man who wants to appropriate History so that it fits his claims. Now, where have we seen that before? Oh, wait....It is sad to say that this is the least of his faults. He is a horrible, extremist brute. Violent, hideous, trapped in his incompetence and illusions like all extremists. There is no love for his wife and his daughter. Only a twisted obsession to imitate a life that will allow him to freely express his instincts. He is one of the most despicable characters you'll ever come across. Silvie’s mother is equally at fault here, She cannot be acquitted because of her condition. She is weak, pathetically giving way under his psychological and physical violence, unable to protect her child who should have been her only priority. I had no tolerance reserved for her. Not when we have Silvie and Molly, the young women, the fighters and protectors.With a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, this is a haunting story about the bonds of the present and the past, about the cruelty towards the ones who are not allowed to defend themselves, the resistance of youth against violence and tyranny, the need to end patriarchy once and for all. A story that demonstrates the evils brought about by prejudice, extremism, and racism. What could be more relevant to our troubled times?Many thanks to Granta Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Ova Incekaraoglu
    January 1, 1970
    Full review hereIf there was a contest of writing, that will require telling a story using the least amount of words, this book would win it this year.A borderline novella, Ghost Wall is a powerful story that could easily be read in one sitting.I loved the idea behind this novel. The sacrificed bog girls, whose remains found, as characters they are quiet and unknown, as if they never existed but the proof of them being very much alive is there, in contrast with today's abused women in hands of b Full review hereIf there was a contest of writing, that will require telling a story using the least amount of words, this book would win it this year.A borderline novella, Ghost Wall is a powerful story that could easily be read in one sitting.I loved the idea behind this novel. The sacrificed bog girls, whose remains found, as characters they are quiet and unknown, as if they never existed but the proof of them being very much alive is there, in contrast with today's abused women in hands of bad-seed men.Silvie, short for Sulevia, a Celtic goddess, is living a hard life with her "almost not there" mother and abusive father. This father of Silvie's is a terror. He crushes both the mum and daughter both physically and psychologically. The family is involved in an expedition-like setting, in Northumberland , vast moors, where there is a professor and some students investigating the lives of ancient Britons by replicating the same style of living. Silvie's father, Bill, is helping the professor who is seemingly closing an eye on the ways Bill manipulates and uses his family. Bill is obsessed with 'ancient times' and mimicking the same style of living.It is not a long story, and I don't want to go on talking about the plot. The story is very powerful and dense. There were bits turned my stomach, and other bits where I felt ashamed/stressed reading on Silvie's behalf. It is a dark and depressing novel, but very well put together.Two things I didn't like about this novel, 1- The narration style. I am not sure if someone went out and about this year to young writers, and recommended them to write in a dreamy, first-person voice with long sentences that's shy to include punctuation to get long listed to awards? Why the sudden explosion of this style of writing? I am not a fan.2- The ending. It felt a bit hasty. The start was intriguing, but find the ending the weakest point of the book.Don't get me wrong, this was a really good book. When a book is good, you can't help thinking it could have been better. 4 stars and will definitely be reading Moss again.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    Sarah Moss is one of those authors I have wanted to get to for what feels like ages because I had this feeling that I would adore her work. But sometimes that feeling of a potential favourite author makes me to anxious to actually pick up a book (this is irrational, I know), so I finally jumped at the chance to read and review her newest novel, because it sounds brilliant and it is quite short (I love short books). And I still think that Sarah Moss might be a potential favourite author, even if Sarah Moss is one of those authors I have wanted to get to for what feels like ages because I had this feeling that I would adore her work. But sometimes that feeling of a potential favourite author makes me to anxious to actually pick up a book (this is irrational, I know), so I finally jumped at the chance to read and review her newest novel, because it sounds brilliant and it is quite short (I love short books). And I still think that Sarah Moss might be a potential favourite author, even if this book did not quite blow me away.This book is set over a period of a couple of days, days Silvie and her family are spending in a experimental archeological setting, together with a professor and a few of his students. While the students can sleep in tents, Silvie’s controlling and obsessive father forces his family to sleep in what he deems “authentic” huts. Silvie latches onto the sole female student, while trying not to make her father angry (and obviously failing, because he always finds something to be angry about). Moss uses this setting to showcast a variety of awful things: abuse and dysfunctional family dynamics, misogyny and sexism, classism and racism. She does so adeptly and impressively, but it does make for a rather grim reading experience.The setting and the atmosphere are the biggest strength of this book. Told in long, run-on sentences (a style I particularly enjoy), Sarah Moss plays with the limited variation of their everyday life. The atmosphere becomes ever more oppressive and instilled with a sense of foreboding that made me very scared for Silvie. Moss is in perfect command of her language in a way that made me savour the words and excited for more of her books.In the end, this book is more a collection of clever observations and vivid scenes than a cohesive whole – it is extremely well-done but did not always work for me. It felt longer than its less than 200 pages because spending time in Silvie’s life is suffocating and repetitive, and while I know that this was on purpose and done exceedingly well, I did not always enjoy my reading experience.I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Granta in exchange for an honest review.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    I have enjoyed the writing of Sarah Moss since reading, “Cold Earth,” in 2009 and was delighted to receive her latest work for review. This is a short novel, almost a novella, but still retains a huge amount of depth and interest. A group of people are gathered for a trip in ‘experimental archaeology,’ recreating an Iron Age camp in Northumberland. There is the professor, Jim Slade, his students; Molly, Dan and Peter, and Silvie and her family. Silvie is seventeen and lives with her downtrodden I have enjoyed the writing of Sarah Moss since reading, “Cold Earth,” in 2009 and was delighted to receive her latest work for review. This is a short novel, almost a novella, but still retains a huge amount of depth and interest. A group of people are gathered for a trip in ‘experimental archaeology,’ recreating an Iron Age camp in Northumberland. There is the professor, Jim Slade, his students; Molly, Dan and Peter, and Silvie and her family. Silvie is seventeen and lives with her downtrodden mother, Alison, and her father, Bill Hampton. Usually a bus driver, Bill is obsessed with Ancient Britain and is often used to give practical help, or trade information, with academics. Resentful of those he perceives as ‘better than him,’ Bill is aggressive, over-bearing and abusive. Alison has learnt to keep her head down. Silvie knows that, however she tries, she will annoy him and then she will have to pay the consequence.This is an excellent portrayal of the dynamics of a group, thrown together and trying to recreate the past, while being very much in the present. There are those who are simply there out of interest and those, like Bill, who take it very seriously indeed. With a glimpse into real life sacrifices, which took place long ago, the men decide to build the ‘ghost wall,’ of the title – a wooden fence, topped with animal skulls to keep out invaders. Suddenly, without warning, things begin to get just a little serious...As always, Moss writes beautifully. This did end a little abruptly and I would have been happier if she had fleshed this out, as it was an interesting idea and I thought the characters well drawn. Even Bill had a warmer side, as Sylvie thinks back and remembers times when he has been kind to her – trying to include her in his interests, but, ultimately, controlling and short-tempered. Still, this is well worth reading and I enjoyed it very much. I received a copy of this from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    January 1, 1970
    “I didn't quite know how to ask anything of my own. How do you leave home, how do you get away, how do you not go back?” When I started reading Ghost Wall, the forthcoming novel from Sarah Moss about a group of people setting up camp close to Hadrian’s Wall as an exercise in experiential archaeology, I surmised from the demeanour of Silvie, its protagonist (and narrator), she was far younger than her actual age. I took her to be a precocious eleven, possibly twelve-year-old, only to discover af “I didn't quite know how to ask anything of my own. How do you leave home, how do you get away, how do you not go back?” When I started reading Ghost Wall, the forthcoming novel from Sarah Moss about a group of people setting up camp close to Hadrian’s Wall as an exercise in experiential archaeology, I surmised from the demeanour of Silvie, its protagonist (and narrator), she was far younger than her actual age. I took her to be a precocious eleven, possibly twelve-year-old, only to discover after reading for some time she was in fact seventeen. The reason for my misjudgement was partly her father, Bill’s behaviour towards her, since he treated her like a little girl, but also because she complied with his every wish in a most un-teenage-like way.Bill Hampton is a bus driver from Burnley with an all consuming interest in the lives of Ancient Britons and an enormous grudge against those he perceives as belonging to a higher or more educated class than his own. His depth of knowledge about living off the land has gained him a reputation among academics as being a handy amateur to have on call, and has led to him being invited, along his wife and daughter, to spend a short period living in a remote, authentically recreated Iron-Age village in Northumberland.The family share the experience with Professor (“call me Jim”) Slade and the students responsible for building the village and making the scratchy tunics and crude moccasins they now must wear. Silvie is immediately attracted to the only female student in the group, a confident, prepossessing individual called Molly, who seeks to educate (some might say ‘lead astray’) her slightly younger friend.At Bill’s insistence, Silvie (short for Sulevia) and her mum, Alison, move with him into a great open-plan roundhouse, sleeping on lumpy handmade bunks, while the others – much to his chagrin – opt to pitch their waterproof tents around the place. Bill is a stickler for authenticity and detests anything that reminds him of the modern world. His list of dislikes also include women’s “undies”, footling about “like an old woman” and female sanitary products (which, he says, women managed “well enough without back in the day”). It is probably an understatement to suggest that women in general make Bill feel queasy.It becomes apparent fairly early in the novel that Bill is both bigot and bully, though he skilfully conceals the results of the rough treatment he deals out to his wife and daughter from others in the camp. Alison tells Silvie her father can’t help his behaviour, that he’s always had a bad temper, and advises her to simply do as he says. She certainly tries to keep him happy, but she’s a bright young woman and forgets herself by “answering him back” (i.e., makes perfectly sensible comments and suggestions).As Bill’s conduct becomes ever more obsessional and domineering, Molly begins to see that all is not well with the Hampton’s. Then events come to a head when a re-enactment of a sacrificial ritual is taken too far.In her Acknowledgements, Sarah Moss reveals that the genesis of this story came firstly from participating in a Northumbrian residency to celebrate the Hexham Literary Festival, and then from the ‘Scotland’s People’ exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland, where she spent time with “the possessions and bodies of Iron and Bronze Age residents of the borderlands.”Moss’s slender novel, which I devoured in one sitting, is menacing and brutal, but also filled with yearning, sensuality and hope. It has much to say about female affinity and friendship. “Because they are men, I thought, because they're in charge, because there will be consequences if you don't. I didn't see how she could not know that.” Many thanks to Granta Publications for providing an advance review copy of this title.
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Like many people, I was hugely impressed by Sarah Moss’ previous novel “The Tidal Zone” for the way its story meaningfully drew the past into the pressing concerns of its characters in the present. She uses a similar technique in her new novel “Ghost Wall” but in a much more compressed form that combines a tense story with a strong statement about issues in modern Britain. Teenage Silvie is taken on a unique archaeological trip in Northern England by her parents along with a few students and a p Like many people, I was hugely impressed by Sarah Moss’ previous novel “The Tidal Zone” for the way its story meaningfully drew the past into the pressing concerns of its characters in the present. She uses a similar technique in her new novel “Ghost Wall” but in a much more compressed form that combines a tense story with a strong statement about issues in modern Britain. Teenage Silvie is taken on a unique archaeological trip in Northern England by her parents along with a few students and a professor. Rather than searching for artefacts they seek to recreate the feeling of living in Iron Age Britain as closely as possible. This means wearing nothing but burlap sacks, foraging for what food they can in the forest and living in primitive shelters. It also includes antiquated rituals like building a wall out of skulls and other unsavoury acts which grow increasingly alarming and bizarre. The values that Silvie’s father holds are skewed towards an outdated ideal of masculinity and gender dynamics which Silvie gradually comes to question. For such a short novel, this book builds up to a thrilling and memorable conclusion.Read my full review of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss on LonesomeReader
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    We’re seeing if we can make a ghost wall, said the Prof, sitting back on his haunches. I was just telling your dad, it’s what one of the local tribes tried as a last-ditch defence against the Romans, they made a palisade and brought out their ancestral skulls and arrayed them along the top, dead faces gazing down, it was their strongest magic.Sarah Moss's Ghost Wall sparked connections for me with two excellent novels - Melissa Harrison's recent All Among the Barley (my review: https://www.goodr We’re seeing if we can make a ghost wall, said the Prof, sitting back on his haunches. I was just telling your dad, it’s what one of the local tribes tried as a last-ditch defence against the Romans, they made a palisade and brought out their ancestral skulls and arrayed them along the top, dead faces gazing down, it was their strongest magic.Sarah Moss's Ghost Wall sparked connections for me with two excellent novels - Melissa Harrison's recent All Among the Barley (my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and Paul Kingsnorth's highly innovative, and Goldsmiths shortlisted, 20145 novel, The Wake (my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).Harrison's novel, set in rural Suffolk in the 1930s, features a fictional Order of English Yeomanry, based on real-life groups that were common at the time, with a back-to-nature English nationalism that strayed easily into support for fascism. As Harrison explains in an afterword:"These complex, fragmented groups differed from one another, sometimes slightly, sometimes profoundly; but all drew from a murky broth of nationalism, anti-Semitism, nativism, protectionism, anti-immigration sentiment, economic autarky, secessionism, militarism, anti-Europeanism, rural revivalism, nature worship, organicism, landscape mysticism and distrust of big business – particularly international finance."Kingsnorth's novel is set in 11th century England, and the 'hero' of his novel, the narrator buccmaster is part of the Anglo-Saxon "resistance" in the wake of 1066 and the Norman conquest. But the buccmaster's views, and his quest to preserve authentic Englishness, rather stray again into xenophobic nativism. Interestingly in this novel, while Kingsnorth presents buccmaster warts-and-all, for example he is clearly a coward as well as delusional as to his own importance, one strongly suspects the author's sympathy lies with his views. Kingsnorth has caused significant controversy recently for his eco-nativist views that have strayed into supporting Brexit and, while not supporting certainly at least understanding other disruptive politicians of the left and right (Putin, Trump etc).This article of his own in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...) contained the troubling passage: It must be 20 years since I read the autobiography of the late travel writer Norman Lewis, The World, The World, but the last sentence stays with me. Wandering the hills of India, Lewis is ask by a puzzled local why he spends his life travelling instead of staying at home. What is he looking for? “I am looking for the people who have always been there,” replies Lewis, “and belong to the places where they live. The others I do not wish to see.”This rather ridiculous concept of 'a people who have always been there' was part of Sarah Moss's motivation for writing Ghost Wall. She explains in detail here (http://www.sarahmoss.org/on-prehistor...) but she nails the story of 'foundation myths' as she calls them in this paragraph, including exposing buccmaster's folly:Foundation myths live in prehistory, back just before the inconvenient truths of the historical record, and foundation myths feel very relevant at the moment. I live in a country where xenophobia and nativism have become normal in the last couple of years, where the rights of people perceived not to be British, or not British enough, are routinely denied.In this story, the country was better before the immigrants came, when all the inhabitants were native British. When, I wonder, was that? Before the Windrush? Before the Empire brought people from India and Ireland and parts of Africa to live and work in Britain in the nineteenth century? Before the transatlantic slave trade? Before William and Mary came from Holland to rule us? Maybe before the Norman Conquest, before all those French people brought wine and made us stop speaking Anglo-Saxon? No, because the Angles and the Saxons came from the Nordic countries via France (Saxony, in fact). Before the Anglo-Saxons we had the Romans, bringing underfloor heating and literacy but definitely not British and not even, actually, very Roman; there were Syrian and German troops in Yorkshire and Northumberland two thousand years ago, coming over here and making the roads run straight. And writing things down: there were runes and bits of script before the Roman conquest of Britain but our historical record begins with the arrival of those foreign troops. The ‘Britons’ who experienced that invasion had come, a few generations earlier, from Ireland and Brittany (Britain is named after part of France), their material culture distinctively Celtic. There were people in these islands before the Celts came, and they left some stones and bone fragments, just enough for us to know that they, too, came from elsewhere. Go back far enough and we all came out of Africa, or Eden if you prefer a foundation myth to archaeology. Either way, according to the logic of national blood, none of us belong on these islands.As for the novel itself, Ghost Wall actually tells a relatively simple story, indeed at 160 pages it feels more like a novella than a novel, and indeed one suspects could have been slimmed down further to a 50-60 page story was the form more commercially viable in the UK.It is narrated by Silvie, a 17 year old girl. She is in Northumberland with her father, a bus driver by profession but amateur historian, and her mother. The three have joined a University professor, and three students from his 'Experiental Archaeology course. And yes that does read Experiental, not Experimental: the group are camping in the Northumberland national park, with its extensive peat bogs, reconstructing, as best they can, iron-age life.That was the whole point of the re-enactment, that we ourselves became the ghosts, learning to walk the land as they walked it two thousand years ago, to tend our fire as they tended theirs and hope that some of their thoughts, their way of understanding the world, would follow the dance of muscle and bone. To do it properly, I thought, we would almost have to absent ourselves from ourselves, leaving our actions, our reenactions, to those no longer there. Who are the ghosts again, us or our dead? Maybe they imagined us first, maybe we were conjured out of the deep past by other minds.The teenage Silvie, in her narration, rather pokes fun at the inauthenticity of some of the reconstruction, although any comments are made sotto voce for fear of upsetting her father, who takes the whole thing very seriously: When I woke up there was light seeping around the sheepskin hanging over the door. They probably didn’t actually have sheep, the Professor had said, but since we weren’t allowed to kill animals using Iron Age technologies we would have to take what we could get and sheepskins are a lot easier to pick up on the open market than deerskins. While I was glad we weren’t going to be hacking the guts out of deer in the woods with flint blades, I thought the Professor’s dodging of bloodshed pretty thoroughly messed up the idea that our experiences that summer were going to rediscover the lifeways of pre-modern hunter gatherers. The clue, I muttered, is in the name, you know, hunter gatherers? What was that, Silvie, said Dad, would you like to repeat what you just said to Professor Slade? Oh, please, call me Jim, said Professor Slade, and don’t worry, I have teenagers myself, I know what it’s like. Yeah, I’d thought, but your teenagers aren’t here, are they, gone off somewhere nice with their mum I don’t doubt, France or Italy probably.Although Sil defends her father when the rather cynical students joke about his views, for example her name, a 'proper British name' according to her father.Silvie, what, short for Sylvia? Sulevia, I said. I was about to say, as I had been doing since I first started school, she was an Ancient British goddess, my dad chose it, but they were already exchanging glances. Sulevia’s a local deity, said Dan, Jim was talking about her the other day. Northumbrian goddess of springs and pools, co-opted by the Romans, said Molly....A proper British name. What’s he mean by that, then? Nothing, I said, he likes British prehistory, he thought it was a shame the old names had gone. Right, said Pete, you mean he likes the idea that there’s some original Britishness somewhere, that if he goes back far enough he’ll find someone who wasn’t a foreigner. You know it’s not really British, right? I mean, Sulevia, it’s obviously just a version of Sylvia which means – of the woods in Latin.I said, yes, I do know, a Roman corruption of a lost British word.But more troubling aspects start to emerge. A description of seeing her mother when she returns to the camp from a foraging trip contains within it, the casual but disturbing There was a new bruise on her arm.. And as she walks along Hadrian's Wall, her own thoughts of the many diffuse voices that would have been present among the Roman forces (echoing the author's blog above) cross into thoughts of her father's nativism:I half closed my eyes, imagined hearing on the wind the Arabic conversations of the Syrian soldiers who’d dug the ditches and hoisted the stones two thousand years ago. I tried to hold the view in my mind and strip the landscape of pylons and church towers, to see through the eyes of the patrolling legion fresh from the Black Forest. They weren’t even really Roman, Dad had said, they were from all over the show, North Africa and Eastern Europe and Germany, probably a lot of them didn’t even speak proper Latin. There were even Negroes, imagine what the Britons made of that, they’d never have seen the like. We were only two days out from Newcastle, a city that had upset Dad, and I knew better than to challenge him; even the word ‘Negro’was already some concession to my ideas because he preferred to use a more offensive term and wait, chin raised, for a reaction.As her father and the professor and the two male students get increasingly enthusiastic, they decide to reconstruct the ghost wall of the title, and my opening quote, albeit using rabbit skulls rather than their own dead. The female student Molly points out the 'boys with toys' aspect:I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, said Molly, it kind of reminds me of Swallows and Amazons but they’re grown men. Those little drums and a willow fence with rabbits’heads on top, for what, to keep out the Romans?While Professor Slade and her father argue about whether the ghost wall would have had any effect on Roman troops, her father arguing that the ancient Britains 'saw off' the Romans, and the Professor that Hadrian's wall was more of a 'Rome woz here' monument than anything defensive:It would just have been intertribal squabbles up here, the Prof was saying, until the Romans came, no training at all for taking on the imperial army, they’d never have seen the like. At least part of their defence was magic, did you know that? War trumpets, scary noises coming at you over the marsh. Aye, said Dad, maybe so, you’re thinking of the carnyxes, but they had their horses and swords as well, didn’t they, put up quite a fight and after all sent them packing in the end, there weren’t dark faces in these parts for nigh on two millennia after that, were there? ...Well, said the Prof, they weren’t exactly British, as I said before, they wouldn’t have seen themselves that way, as far as we can tell their identities were tribal. Celts, we tend to call them these days though they wouldn’t have recognized the idea, they seem to have come from Brittany and Ireland, from the West. Dad didn’t like this line. Celts, I suppose, sounded Irish, and even though Jesus had only recently died at the time in question Dad didn’t like the Irish, tended to see Catholicism in much the same light as the earlier form of Roman imperialism . Foreigners coming over here, telling us what to think. He wanted his own ancestry , wanted a lineage, a claim on something. Not people from Ireland or Rome or Germania or Syria but some tribe sprung from English soil like mushrooms in the night.Except from Swallows and Amazons, it instead all gets a bit Lord of the Flies at the end as the men decide to re-enact another of the ancient Briton's rites, one inspired by the bog bodies found in the local peat, including Lindow Man, which she and her father saw at the Manchester Museum.Overall: the theme of the novel is very important, and as mentioned links with one in two of my favourite British novels of the last 5 years. As mentioned, the story itself is perhaps a little insubstantial for a novel, albeit Moss packs a lot in there including themes my review doesn't even touch on (misogyny, some snobbery from the Southern English students and professor to Silvie's Northern family, her own emerging and confused sexuality).But as a negative, where Kingnorth was not afraid to show us the flaws in his protagonist despite sharing his views, Moss doesn't do Sil's father the courtesy of giving him any real redeeming features: in particular his temper-triggered domestic abuse seemed an unnecessary addition to his faults.But still a stimulating and quick - perhaps too quick - read. 3.5 stars.Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    Because they are men, I thought, because they're in charge, because there will be consequences if you don't. I didn't see how she could not know that. A short, almost impressionist piece of writing in which Moss swirls together strands about gender, class, prejudicial nationalism and a kind of atavistic mentality that foreground both the use and abuse of power. The writing is subtle and loaded, the tension rising with the heat and the increasing violence as rabbits are skinned for food, their h Because they are men, I thought, because they're in charge, because there will be consequences if you don't. I didn't see how she could not know that. A short, almost impressionist piece of writing in which Moss swirls together strands about gender, class, prejudicial nationalism and a kind of atavistic mentality that foreground both the use and abuse of power. The writing is subtle and loaded, the tension rising with the heat and the increasing violence as rabbits are skinned for food, their heads boiled for the construction of the menacing ghost wall. The lord-of-the-flies-alike ending is both flagged from the start but also not quite believable - and leaves us a little stranded as the piece ends abruptly. Nevertheless, the control in the writing is striking, and Moss has created a nicely complicated relationship in that between Sylvie and her father: her memories of their closeness when she was a child, the security of holding his hand, offering both a stark contrast and key to their present tension. Best read in a single sitting, this is a spare and powerful piece of writing alive to small movements, moments of complicity and rebellion, and the consequences that ensue.Thanks to Granta for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 rounded downIn Sarah Moss's novella Ghost Wall, set in rural Northumberland, we follow a teenage girl called Silvie. Silvie's father is obsessed with the Iron Age, and takes his wife and his daughter to a camp where they spend the summer living this ancient lifestyle - foraging for food, following the rituals - isolated from modern society.Silvie becomes acquainted with another young camper, Molly, a female archaeology student from university who is also at the camp with her professor. Where 3.5 rounded downIn Sarah Moss's novella Ghost Wall, set in rural Northumberland, we follow a teenage girl called Silvie. Silvie's father is obsessed with the Iron Age, and takes his wife and his daughter to a camp where they spend the summer living this ancient lifestyle - foraging for food, following the rituals - isolated from modern society.Silvie becomes acquainted with another young camper, Molly, a female archaeology student from university who is also at the camp with her professor. Where Silvie is reticent and follows her father's inane rules, Molly is wilful and plots trips to Spar to buy snacks. Where Silvie lives in fear of her father's reign of terror (he is abusive to both her and her mother), Molly fights against the sinister undercurrent that develops within the camp.While the story is memorable and there are a number of strengths to the book - the observations on class stood out - somehow it didn't quite come together as a whole. The story gained momentum towards the end, but I finished feeling it could have been so much more.Thank you Netgalley and Granta Publications for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Claire Fuller
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed the premise and story in this short novel. Silvie, seventeen, is participating in an experiential archaeology re-enactment of an iron-age Northumbrian camp with her mother, and abusive and controlling father. Staying in the camp - but in their tents rather than the roundhouse - are three students and their professor. The women are left to 'gather' and cook, while the men hunt, until they also start to reenact odd ancient ceremonies, including building a ghost wall. Silvie is too I really enjoyed the premise and story in this short novel. Silvie, seventeen, is participating in an experiential archaeology re-enactment of an iron-age Northumbrian camp with her mother, and abusive and controlling father. Staying in the camp - but in their tents rather than the roundhouse - are three students and their professor. The women are left to 'gather' and cook, while the men hunt, until they also start to reenact odd ancient ceremonies, including building a ghost wall. Silvie is too scared of her father to challenge him and so the tension between father and daughter builds, until Molly, the female student finally ends what is happening. My minor quibbles were with characterisation of the two male students who seemed to blend into one, and with the grammar of the dialogue. (It's without speech marks which I don't mind, but the dialogue is run together so that I had to reread things like, 'I said, Dad said, xxx', unsure of who was speaking. I'm sure this is done by Moss on purpose - she's too good a writer for it to unintentional - perhaps to show again how Silvie has no mind of her own, but it sometimes made reading a struggle).
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  • Noelia Alonso
    January 1, 1970
    (8/10)FULL REVIEW: https://www.instagram.com/p/BoEcU2jlw...
  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Silvie and her parents join an archaeology professor and three of his students on a field trip to Northumberland. The trip is an experiment in "experiential archaeology" in the sense that its participants try to recreate and re-enact the living conditions of the Iron Age tribes which inhabited these remote areas. The professor's intentions are innocent enough, at least at the outset - a mixture of academic curiosity and a "Boys' Own" thirst for adventure which he seems to share with his students Silvie and her parents join an archaeology professor and three of his students on a field trip to Northumberland. The trip is an experiment in "experiential archaeology" in the sense that its participants try to recreate and re-enact the living conditions of the Iron Age tribes which inhabited these remote areas. The professor's intentions are innocent enough, at least at the outset - a mixture of academic curiosity and a "Boys' Own" thirst for adventure which he seems to share with his students. Silvie's dad, on the other hand, has darker motives. We soon learn that he has supremacist fantasies about "Ancient Britons", whom he considers a pure, home-grown race, untainted by foreign influences. He idolises their way of life which, albeit nasty, brutish and short, is for him a test of manly mettle. And he has a morbid fascination with the Bog People, Iron Age victims of human sacrifice. At first the group dynamics make the novel feel like an episode of "Celebrity Survivors" as we sense the increasing friction between the disparate characters. However, things decidedly take a turn for the sinister when the men decide to build a "ghost wall" - a wooden barricade topped by animal skulls which the ancients apparently used as a means of psychological warfare against invading hordes. Ghost Wall is a slender novella which packs a punch. The narrative element is tautly controlled. There's a constant sense of dread, of violence simmering beneath the surface. These leads to a terrifying climax, in which the novel skirts the folk horror genre to chilling effect. More importantly, however, the work is a timely indictment of patriarchal and racist prejudices which, though distinct, often fuel each other. It also seems to suggest that even monsters have redeeming features which endear them to their own victims, whilst seemingly innocent persons can commit grave acts when they give in to atavistic instincts. Perhaps what make this novel so disturbing is that these horrors are all too real.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    https://jessicantread.wordpress.com/2...4.5 stars. This was brilliant. A slow burning dark tension throughout heightened by a touch of melodrama to the ending - reminiscent of Elmet, a novel I adored. Ghost Wall also similarly examines the complex tethers between humans and nature, questions what defines masculinity and gender roles, and highlights the stereotypes that help form the North/South cultural divide evident in the UK. For what is effectively a novella, Moss has been able to weave such https://jessicantread.wordpress.com/2...4.5 stars. This was brilliant. A slow burning dark tension throughout heightened by a touch of melodrama to the ending - reminiscent of Elmet, a novel I adored. Ghost Wall also similarly examines the complex tethers between humans and nature, questions what defines masculinity and gender roles, and highlights the stereotypes that help form the North/South cultural divide evident in the UK. For what is effectively a novella, Moss has been able to weave such a rich and complete story in less than half of the pages of My Absolute Darling, another novel of which many parallels can be drawn. I felt the focus on violence in Tallents' novel was heavy handed, insensitively drawn and borderline gratuitously misogynistic. Here, Moss has created a similarly fraught father/daughter relationship, but manages it with tact and emotional accuracy. I highlighted so many passages through this, I'm tempted to just go back to the start and read it all over again. There's undoubtedly a great benefit to reading this in one sitting, and on a second read I'm sure to find even more nuances, such as in the relationship between Sylvie and her mother. These two women suffer at the hands of a violent man who is meant to not only love, but protect them. Whilst this shared hurt can often serve to create a deeper bond, here it seems to create a further dissonance between them.I'm simply in awe of the way Moss has unearthed so many topics in such comparatively few pages. This one will linger for a while. Highly recommended!Thank you to Granta for providing me an eBook of this via Netgalley ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    I was drawn to this immediately by the fact it is based in the beautiful Northumberland countryside which is actually where I live, as well as the fact that i've started to really appreciate literary fiction recently. Even though it explores dark topics, I found there was a solemn calm throughout the novel which was almost eerie. Although only a novella, 'Ghost Wall' really packs an emotional punch within those short pages. Some of the many themes it explores are sexism racism and physical and m I was drawn to this immediately by the fact it is based in the beautiful Northumberland countryside which is actually where I live, as well as the fact that i've started to really appreciate literary fiction recently. Even though it explores dark topics, I found there was a solemn calm throughout the novel which was almost eerie. Although only a novella, 'Ghost Wall' really packs an emotional punch within those short pages. Some of the many themes it explores are sexism racism and physical and mental abuse. With such challenging topics this is no easy read, and I felt uncomfortable for much of the story, which is testament to the authors talent. Told from the perspective of teenager Silvie whose father, Bill, has become obsessed with Neolithic ways of living. It soon becomes clear that this is because it allows him more scope to follow his twisted objectives. Menacing, chilling and ominous to the end, this is a tale I know I will return to. Skilfully drawn characters add further intrerest to the story, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I will be looking out for more of her work in the future, and i'm off to purchase her other books right now. Highly recommended.Many thanks to Granta Publications for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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  • SueLucie
    January 1, 1970
    Teenaged Silvie and her parents join a group of university students and their professor for some experiential archaeology on the wild Northumberland moors. They plan to recreate the day-to-day living conditions of the people who were there in ancient times - hunting and gathering to survive, but also becoming interested in old beliefs and rituals. Of them all, Silvie’s father is the most invested in ‘keeping it real’ and bullies his wife and daughter into complying with his ideas of how it would Teenaged Silvie and her parents join a group of university students and their professor for some experiential archaeology on the wild Northumberland moors. They plan to recreate the day-to-day living conditions of the people who were there in ancient times - hunting and gathering to survive, but also becoming interested in old beliefs and rituals. Of them all, Silvie’s father is the most invested in ‘keeping it real’ and bullies his wife and daughter into complying with his ideas of how it would have been. The group soon starts to divide along gender lines, the women weaving, gathering and cooking, the men beating drums and wielding knives. Sarah Moss has done a great job with this story - on the one hand giving a snapshot of how a society creates imbalances amongst its members, dominance and fundamentalism, on the other a very intimate story of an unhappy family and a young girl straining to grow up and away from it. I have long been a fan of her writing, how she evokes a beautiful but threatening landscape and atmosphere, and this very short novel is a perfect showcase for her skills.Many thanks to Granta Publications via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    This is a story of a reenactment gone too far. This is a story of a dysfunctional family with an abusive father, a passive mother and a bright though browbeaten figuratively and literally teenage daughter. It is her, Sil, who is the narrator and through her the reader gets to experience an experimental archeology set up her father signs them up for, arranged by a university professor and some of his pupils. Actually to me it seems more like an anthropology experiment, they are not looking for ar This is a story of a reenactment gone too far. This is a story of a dysfunctional family with an abusive father, a passive mother and a bright though browbeaten figuratively and literally teenage daughter. It is her, Sil, who is the narrator and through her the reader gets to experience an experimental archeology set up her father signs them up for, arranged by a university professor and some of his pupils. Actually to me it seems more like an anthropology experiment, they are not looking for artifacts so much as trying to recreate a bygone lifestyle, specifically Iron Age Northumbrian. Sil’s father goes for a proper immersion being the absolutely repulsive abusive chauvinist bastard that he is, the ancient ways seem to appease his overblown male ego. In fact, this makes me ponder what percentage of reenactors do it for historical fun and enjoyment and what percentage do it because they genuinely believe they would have been happier way back when and it’s the only chance they get to experience the life they are denied by modernity. Anyway, in real life Sil’s father is no ancient great, just a mere bus driver with some survivalist tips, who recreationally beats his wife and daughter. It’s no surprise when he takes the experiment too far. The book took some getting used to, the style is a straight up streaming narration with minimal dialogue or paragraphs for that matter, much like my reviews tend to be. But once you engage with Sil’s perspective, the book goes by quickly (helped in no small way by a very economic page count) and it’s vividly descriptive, which enhances the immediacy of the first person narrative. Interesting read, light volume with heavy themes. Thanks Netgalley.
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  • Eleanor
    January 1, 1970
    (6, if I could.)A deceptively short book, almost a novella at 150 pages, with a core of menace, Ghost Wall follows Silvie, the daughter of a bus driver whose love for Ancient British history is tinged with racism and nationalism. He has brought Silvie and her mother on a trip to Northumberland to live as Iron Age peoples did, but their campmates—a professor and his students on an “Experiential Archaeology” course—are less devoted to dogmatic historical accuracy, and tensions rise almost at once. (6, if I could.)A deceptively short book, almost a novella at 150 pages, with a core of menace, Ghost Wall follows Silvie, the daughter of a bus driver whose love for Ancient British history is tinged with racism and nationalism. He has brought Silvie and her mother on a trip to Northumberland to live as Iron Age peoples did, but their campmates—a professor and his students on an “Experiential Archaeology” course—are less devoted to dogmatic historical accuracy, and tensions rise almost at once. We know something terrible is going to happen; how could it not, given Silvie’s father’s propensity towards violence, and the expedition’s growing obsession with the ritual murders that culminated in bog bodies? But Moss takes us there slowly, carefully, building atmosphere (the discomfort of heat without insulated walls or air conditioning; the endless round of finding something to eat, laboriously preparing it, cooking it, eating it, and starting again). It is also a very tightly written book: everything is thematically connected to everything else, which is no mean feat in a text so short, especially one that also includes fine descriptive passages. The first three pages, and the final five, caused a physical reaction in me when I read them: Moss’s evocation of emotional states is that strong, that subtle. I have no hesitation at all in calling Ghost Wall a masterpiece.
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  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    I consistently enjoy Sarah Moss' novels, and was so excited when I found out about the 2018 release of her novella, Ghost Wall. The premise, which revolves around a seventeen-year-old girl named Silvie, who is spending her summer at an Iron Age reenactment with her strict father and put-upon mother, intrigued me, and I found myself absorbed in the story from the very beginning.It is difficult to pinpoint quite when this takes place, but a couple of clues given place it in the late 1980s or early I consistently enjoy Sarah Moss' novels, and was so excited when I found out about the 2018 release of her novella, Ghost Wall. The premise, which revolves around a seventeen-year-old girl named Silvie, who is spending her summer at an Iron Age reenactment with her strict father and put-upon mother, intrigued me, and I found myself absorbed in the story from the very beginning.It is difficult to pinpoint quite when this takes place, but a couple of clues given place it in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Silvie finds herself in the camp, which lies in a remote area of Northumberland, due to her bus driver father's passion for history. They are living there for some time, along with Professor Jim Slade and three of his students, as 'an exercise in experimental archaeology'. Silvie's father is an 'abusive man, obsessed with recreating the discomfort, brutality and harshness of Iron Age life. Behind and ahead of Silvie's narrative is the story of a bog girl, a sacrifice, a woman killed by those closest to her'. The stories of Silvie and this unnamed 'bog girl' become linked in rather a horrifying way toward the end of the novella.I very much liked the opening of this story, which felt stylistically Moss-like from its first paragraph. The prologue begins with a series of quite choppy but very descriptive sentences, which immediately give one a feel for the darkness of the book: 'They bring her out. Not blindfolded, but eyes widened to the last sky, the last light. The last cold bites her fingers and her face, the stones bruise her bare feet. There will be more stones, before the end.' As with this example, Moss places small clues throughout for the reader to piece together.Ghost Wall is highly sensual. As with all of Moss' novels and, indeed, her non-fiction, there is a constant awareness of the natural world, and the ways in which it shifts. Such an atmosphere is built, in what feels like an effortless manner. In the prologue, for instance, Moss writes of the bog girl: 'She is whimpering, keening now. The sound echoes across the marsh, sings through the bare branches of rowan and birch.' This is continued when Silvie's first person perspective begins in the first chapter: 'Within a few days, our feet would wear a path through the trees to the stream, but that first night there was moss underfoot, squashy in the dim light, and patches of wild strawberries so ripe and red they were still visible in the dusk, as if glowing... Bats flashed through the space between branches, mapping depth into the flat sky, their calls brushing the upper range of my hearing.'Silvie has depth and range to her character, and she is particularly believable for her flaws and naivety. When asked by one of the students whether she plans to go to University, her immediate response demonstrates the stifled, lonely life which she has lived thus far: 'Stop questioning me, I thought, but I didn't quite know how to ask anything of my own. How do you leave home, how do you get away, how do you not go back?' As the novella goes on, Silvie lets the reader know small details of her upbringing. She talks, to herself at least, about her father's psychological abuse in an eloquent manner, but the physical abuse is almost baldly stated. Of her mother, for instance, she says: 'There was a new bruise on her arm', before entirely changing the thread of her narrative.Ghost Wall has been impeccably researched and, to me, the story felt like rather an original one. I have never read anything quite like it before. The sense of foreboding is built wonderfully, and whilst quite different in some ways to Moss' other books, it is sure to delight and chill her fans in equal measure.
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  • Bridget
    January 1, 1970
    The beginning of this book is so thoroughly creepy I was hooked from the first lines. A young girl tied to a stake about to be burned to death, everyone is watching and nobody is helping her. The tone changes immediately and now you realise that you have been reading the ending and spend your time wondering how those horrific scenes will come about. Creeping menace, lots and lots of it, abound in this book.Sil's family are spending the summer in an experimental archeology exercise in Northumberl The beginning of this book is so thoroughly creepy I was hooked from the first lines. A young girl tied to a stake about to be burned to death, everyone is watching and nobody is helping her. The tone changes immediately and now you realise that you have been reading the ending and spend your time wondering how those horrific scenes will come about. Creeping menace, lots and lots of it, abound in this book.Sil's family are spending the summer in an experimental archeology exercise in Northumberland close to the moors and near to the ruins of Hadrian's Wall. They are living life as it was in the bronze age. Wearing tunics, living in a primitive tent together, cooking over a fire and foraging for everything they eat. It is not fun at all. Sil's dad is a domineering, bully of a man. Her mum is meek and mouselike. She is beaten and submissive to her husband. Sil has become used to doing exactly what her dad requires because it is easier and she is less likely to end up with bruises. The way that Sarah Moss has written him is so good, you really feel his simmering anger! Along with Sil and her family, there are 3 university students and their professor who are living the ancient lifestyle with them as part of their studies. One of the students is a young woman who becomes close to Sil and who, partly inadvertently, leads Sil astray and into danger.This is a small book with a great big story. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a book which would appeal to reluctant readers due to the instant entry into the action and the easy vocabulary. It is very well written and I'm going to be buying copies for school. I would recommend it for junior high school age students. Although it is set in Britain near the ruins of Hadrian's Wall I think that young people anywhere would relate to it.Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book.
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  • Storyheart
    January 1, 1970
    A skillfully written and skin-crawlingly tense tale of misogyny and violence. The story affected me so much that I had trouble continuing to read and yet, I could not put it down. Sarah Moss is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    (Review copy received via NetGalley. Sampled. Included in my newsletter 06/08/18)Silvie is being forced to live in a remote Northumberland camp as part of an ‘exercise in experiental archaeology’, the brainchild of her abusive father, who’s obsessed with recreating the harshness of Iron Age life. The tale of Silvie’s summer is entwined with the story of a ‘bog girl’ – a sacrifice made centuries earlier.Will I finish reading it? I have heard a lot of amazing things about this book. Unfortunately (Review copy received via NetGalley. Sampled. Included in my newsletter 06/08/18)Silvie is being forced to live in a remote Northumberland camp as part of an ‘exercise in experiental archaeology’, the brainchild of her abusive father, who’s obsessed with recreating the harshness of Iron Age life. The tale of Silvie’s summer is entwined with the story of a ‘bog girl’ – a sacrifice made centuries earlier.Will I finish reading it? I have heard a lot of amazing things about this book. Unfortunately I have to report I am not particularly enamoured of it so far (I’ve read about 15% properly and skimmed up to the halfway point). I can’t really say why, other than that the plot and narrative voice are simply not my cup of tea. It’s obviously an impressive, tightly controlled piece of work; I wouldn’t want to put anyone else off reading Ghost Wall, but it’s not for me.
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  • Siobhan
    January 1, 1970
    Ghost Wall is a subtle and unnerving novel about a girl forced into a summer of experimental archeology by her abusive father. Sylvie is seventeen and is spending her summer at a recreated Iron Age camp in Northumbria, as her father—who is obsessed with recreating the hardship of Iron Age life—works with an archeology professor and some students to live like people might have in the past. Sylvie and her mother live in the shadow of her father and his anger and rules, but in the heat of the summe Ghost Wall is a subtle and unnerving novel about a girl forced into a summer of experimental archeology by her abusive father. Sylvie is seventeen and is spending her summer at a recreated Iron Age camp in Northumbria, as her father—who is obsessed with recreating the hardship of Iron Age life—works with an archeology professor and some students to live like people might have in the past. Sylvie and her mother live in the shadow of her father and his anger and rules, but in the heat of the summer and the bare landscape near Hadrian's Wall, his beliefs might be turned into something else, something inspired by the bog girls who were forced into sacrifice many years ago.This is a short novel that creates a strange and tense atmosphere through description and detail. Sylvie's life is depicted through her perspective of the events at the camp and how she knows about foraging and survival, in contrast to the three students who are on the trip. Moss weaves in tensions around misogyny and class to the narrative, which is centred around abuse by those closest to you. At the same time, it is about Sylvie being aware that there is more to life that what her father is trying to force her to be, hints of coming of age with the backdrop of an unusual and difficult childhood.Ghost Wall is a compact novel that tells a small story featuring a small cast of characters staying in a camp in the wilderness. It also spans many hundreds of years, telling a story of force and coercion that hasn't changed much. Its structure—short and descriptive with a sudden conclusion—might not appeal to everyone, but this is one for people who are interested in trying to know the past, but also depict a more modern day experience in fiction.
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    The story begins with a hint of the story behind one of the Iron Age women found in the bogs of ancient Northumberland.. It transitions to the present as Sylvie, the teenaged daughter of an obsessed, amateur Iron Age historian, is forced to participate in a campground reenactment along with students of a local professor. It soon becomes clear that her father seriously abuses both Sylvie and her mother, and that his attitudes and demands are based in fury at an educational establishment that only The story begins with a hint of the story behind one of the Iron Age women found in the bogs of ancient Northumberland.. It transitions to the present as Sylvie, the teenaged daughter of an obsessed, amateur Iron Age historian, is forced to participate in a campground reenactment along with students of a local professor. It soon becomes clear that her father seriously abuses both Sylvie and her mother, and that his attitudes and demands are based in fury at an educational establishment that only tolerates him because he has made himself useful. By the time the story climaxes at a reenactment of the construction of Hadrian's Wall, the reader will realize that the stakes for Sylvie and her mother are far more dire than those of the professor and the students. Sylvie's growing friendship and attraction to one of the students infuriates her father, frightens her mother, and leads her to understand that she has choices than the teenaged girls who were sacrificed thousands of years ago. As a result of reading this, I have a hunger to read more work by Sarah MossSarah Moss, and more about the Iron Age in northern England. What better recommendation can there be for a book?Highly recommended. Thanks to Net Galley for the prepub copy of this book.
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  • Kiran Hargrave
    January 1, 1970
    Simmering with slow threat & glimmering with insight.
  • imyril
    January 1, 1970
    Content warning: physical (non-sexual) and emotional abuseJust how far will a group of experimental archaeologists go in re-enacting Iron Age life and rituals? I would have liked this even more if it had been (slightly) longer, less abrupt in its ending; if it had provided a touch more closure. But it’s very good: baked in atmosphere, the summer heat as oppressive as Silvia’s awful, controlling father. Sarah Moss writes beautifully, however combative her characters. As usual, I was swept away. F Content warning: physical (non-sexual) and emotional abuseJust how far will a group of experimental archaeologists go in re-enacting Iron Age life and rituals? I would have liked this even more if it had been (slightly) longer, less abrupt in its ending; if it had provided a touch more closure. But it’s very good: baked in atmosphere, the summer heat as oppressive as Silvia’s awful, controlling father. Sarah Moss writes beautifully, however combative her characters. As usual, I was swept away. Full review to follow. I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Geonn Cannon
    January 1, 1970
    It's a good book, well written, and well worth reading (even if the going gets rough in places), but dropped a star because I can't imagine why an author this good wouldn't use quotation marks in dialogue. Is it supposed to make it look literary? Is it artistic choice? All I know is, if I hadn't gotten it from NetGalley, I would have stopped reading as soon as I realized it pulled that nonsense.
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    Ghost Wall By Sarah Moss- Copy received in advanced from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I’ve enjoyed Sarah Moss before and consequently went into this novel with a very high expectation, which was completely exceeded by Ghost Wall. This novel opens with an unforgettable and terrifying scene, depicting the sacrificial murder of a young woman, in front of a complicit crowd of townsfolk back in Iron Age Britain. This is an effective and disturbing reminder of the perilous situations t Ghost Wall By Sarah Moss- Copy received in advanced from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I’ve enjoyed Sarah Moss before and consequently went into this novel with a very high expectation, which was completely exceeded by Ghost Wall. This novel opens with an unforgettable and terrifying scene, depicting the sacrificial murder of a young woman, in front of a complicit crowd of townsfolk back in Iron Age Britain. This is an effective and disturbing reminder of the perilous situations that have faced women at various points in history and the dangers of mob mentality. It also seems a terrible prediction of violence, that stays with you as you enter the narrative. It is at this point we are taken to the present day and introduced to Silvia, seventeen, on an ‘experimental archaeological’ trip with her parents (Bill and Alison), a professor of the Iron age called Jim and some students. Silvia’s father has an obsessive interest in Iron Age Britain and insists the family partaking in recreating the conditions to an uncomfortable level of authenticity, and this is our first clue to his truly abusive nature. Moss has created very layered and realised characters in the Hampton family and the dynamics of fear and domination are subtly peppered throughout the novel, alerting the reader to the danger the women of the family struggle with every day. The feeling of tension the two Hampton women constantly grapple with becomes contagious and infuses the reading experience with urgency and a tautness, as we also come to dread the consequences of Bill’s displeasure. I found this was maintained expertly throughout this short novel, building towards the end as your instincts start telling you something bad is going to happen. The comments made by a young feminist student in the group as she begins to notice the family dynamics, provide a welcome challenge to the behaviour Silvia has come to expect from her father. But the absolute power Bill has over his family is demonstrated in very real micro-moments between members of the family and are heartbreakingly authentic. Moss’s characters have subtle reactions and clipped responses that reveal so much, and this was a feature of this book that I really did feel was masterful in its execution. As the book slowly builds to its disturbing conclusion, it became clear to me the full extent of my emotional involvement. Moss’s characters are so fully realised and are encased in such a meticulously crafted novel, the reading of her work seems always to be an immersive experience. I would highly recommend this novel for those who like character driven literary fiction, with a trigger warning for domestic violence/ emotional abuse.
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  • Latkins
    January 1, 1970
    Although just 150 pages long, this is a deep and rich novel which I'm sure will live on long in my memory. Narrated by six former Sylvie, short for Sulevia, a Celtic god, it describes her experiences at an Iron Age re-enactment in Northumbria. Slyvie is from Burnley, and her father is a bus driver with a passion for history. Somehow, he's admitted himself, Slyvie's mum and Slyvie onto the re-enactment with a professor, Jim, and a group of university students. Slyvie's dad is also a misogynist, a Although just 150 pages long, this is a deep and rich novel which I'm sure will live on long in my memory. Narrated by six former Sylvie, short for Sulevia, a Celtic god, it describes her experiences at an Iron Age re-enactment in Northumbria. Slyvie is from Burnley, and her father is a bus driver with a passion for history. Somehow, he's admitted himself, Slyvie's mum and Slyvie onto the re-enactment with a professor, Jim, and a group of university students. Slyvie's dad is also a misogynist, and he physically and emotionally abuses his wife and his daughter, beating them and controlling them. Sylvie is so used to being afraid of him that it's normal to her, but she soon makes friends with the students. The team wear Iron Age tunics and slippers, and hunt for and gather their own food, camping out in the wild. But occasionally some of the students cut corners... I really fell into this novella, which is both informative and deeply disturbing. It's lack of a timeline (I'm guessing it's set in the 1980s) and its uncanny style meant that I even forgave it the lack of speech marks (usually one of my pet hates). I've read and loved previous books by this author, so was pleased to discover that she's still on good form!
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  • Erica (ricci.reads)
    January 1, 1970
    I'm struggling with this one.I was intrigued by the premise of 'Ghost Wall' - however, the writing style just isn't for me. It's formatted in a way that the actual dialogue runs into the characters inner dialogue without quotation marks to separate the two. As such it's more of a stream of conciousness than a palatable narrative. (E.g. 'I’m sorry, said Mum, I’m late with breakfast, it’ll be a while yet. No, said Dan, it’s fine , we don’t have meal times, Jim keeps saying.')As for the inner dialo I'm struggling with this one.I was intrigued by the premise of 'Ghost Wall' - however, the writing style just isn't for me. It's formatted in a way that the actual dialogue runs into the characters inner dialogue without quotation marks to separate the two. As such it's more of a stream of conciousness than a palatable narrative. (E.g. 'I’m sorry, said Mum, I’m late with breakfast, it’ll be a while yet. No, said Dan, it’s fine , we don’t have meal times, Jim keeps saying.')As for the inner dialogue itself, the main character is younger than her years and as such is her immaturity is communicated in the writing style. I understand that this is necessary, and I'm sure deliberate, given the nature of the story. But I personally find it sets a tone that I find quite repulsive and it doesn't create an enjoyable reading experience for me. (I had a similar issue with 'The Room' by Emma Donoghue.)Unfortunately it's a DNF for now, although it's short enough that I might go back to it at a later date.~ Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this title ~
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  • Moray Teale
    January 1, 1970
    Ghost WallThis upcoming novella from Sarah Moss is a powerful little thing. Moss is always at her best when describing the complexities of family relationships; the tensions and strains as well as the vital support that our loved ones can provide. Playing on the themes of conflicting priorities and power that were central to Bodies of Light and Night Waking Ghost Walk takes these to a new level with the violent relationship between narrator Silvie and her father.Sylvie, her abusive father Bill a Ghost WallThis upcoming novella from Sarah Moss is a powerful little thing. Moss is always at her best when describing the complexities of family relationships; the tensions and strains as well as the vital support that our loved ones can provide. Playing on the themes of conflicting priorities and power that were central to Bodies of Light and Night Waking Ghost Walk takes these to a new level with the violent relationship between narrator Silvie and her father.Sylvie, her abusive father Bill and browbeaten mother are taking part in an “experiential archaeology” experiment, living as ancient Britons in the rugged countryside of Northumberland with a small group of university students and their professor. It’s a study in contrasts the ancient and the modern, the class-based clashes of sensibility and experience between Sylvie’s solidly working-class family and the middle-class academics. Sylvie’s father, a disillusioned (and delusional) bus-driver obsesses over the way pre-Roman people “really” lived, demanding total commitment to authenticity while the university folk are only semi-invested and well aware of the flaws of the experiment; they live in tents, wear modern clothing, shop at Spar.Moss tackles some heavy themes that highlight the complexity of the relationships and the characters. Bill’s rigid insistence that his family live “authentically”, food, clothes and shelter, reflects an unpleasant nationalism. His knowledge of history is wilfully selective, bolstering his ignorance instead of correcting it. His obsession with an imaginary golden-age of pre-Roman Britain is used to justify pernicious racism and faulty reasoning also visible in his violent misogyny.The roles and mentalities of Sylvie and her mother are nuanced and sympathetic, capturing all of the hurt, blame, fear and (often aborted) rebellion present in abusive relationships. Sylvie’s defense of both parents when they are criticised by outsiders is an involuntary reaction that she questions but is unable to resist. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the affect that the family dynamic has on other members of the group. It is increasingly clear that the control Bill exercises over his wife and daughter is unhealthy and violent but beyond sidelong looks Molly is the only outsider to address it and challenge it. As the group becomes increasingly invested in the ancient ritual of the “Ghost Wall” a disturbing herd mentality emerges and the passive acceptance of Bill’s actions takes a sinister and violent shift that highlights the paralysing nature of abuse and how it can be possible for outsiders not just to turn a blind eye to but to be drawn into it.As ever Moss’s writing is exception. She has a gift for first-person narrative and using internal dialogue to interrogate how the mind works on the external world (and vice versa). The build-up of tension as clashing ideals and personalities create an increasingly toxic atmosphere is palpable and only heightened by the surface calm and the isolation of the characters from real life.The contrast between the ancient and the modern is diminished not just by the setting of the “experiential archaeology” practised by the characters (I’m with sceptical student Molly, the concept is largely a nonsense) but in the eerily, disturbingly unchanged way that humans can act and react to fear and violence and the capacity for ritual and patterns of behaviour to reify power structures and relationships, reinforcing the powerful and enervating the victims.After the growing tension of the earlier chapters the conclusion does seem to be a little hurried and a little more juxtaposition between Sylvie and the Bog Girl throughout the story would have helped it feel a little more balanced and consistent. Nevertheless Sarah Moss has provided yet another gripping, sophisticated story of human relationships with her usual masterful command of drama and humour.
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