Book review: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss⁠

Synopsis

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.

Review

I’m really glad I went into this one without knowing much about the story. It’s a little novella but wow does it pack a punch!⁠

This is one of those books that’s really dark and uncomfortable, but you still find yourself eager to turn the page, wanting to know what happens next. I found myself glued to these pages and finished it off in a single sitting.⁠

The writing in this one is pretty simple but don’t let that fool you into thinking this one won’t provide you with vivid imagery and a slow building tension, because it does. My only bone to pick with how it was written was the lack of punctuation when it came to characters speech. I did get used to it after a while, but at first it confused me slightly.⁠

What I found so intriguing about this one is how people have interpreted it’s themes and messages so differently. There is certainly a lot of perspectives you can look at it from, from domestic abuse and misogyny to racial purity, and I can see how these elements make a path through this story. Having been published in 2018, I personally also felt that Moss had taken inspirations from the rising tensions of social political happenings, such as Brexit, to tell a story of how “the good old days” weren’t always as ‘good’ as people think.⁠

A really short and quick read that has certainly left a lasting impression on me! I’m most definitely going to explore more of Moss’ work now I’ve read this one!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Book Details:

Pages: 152
Edition Published:
2018
Genre: Fiction, Horror
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.80

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