13th May, 2019
REVIEW: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (Granta Books)
Ghost Wall was my first read by Sarah Moss and I was immediately in love with her beautiful writing. We follow teenager Silvie who is living in remote Northumberland with her parents as an archaelogical/ anthropological experiment. Her abusive father is obsessed with the idea of reenacting the living conditions of the Iron Age and insists on everyone experiencing the same discomforts and harshness of the past. Things soon go awry and the camp turns into a psychological battlefield. Next to Silvie's narrative we have the story of a so-called bog girl, an Iron Age sacrificial victim. As conflicts arise with Silvie's father, her and the bog girl's histories become increasingly entwined.
Moss' use of language is poetic and maybe even a bit demanding as the story is written in sometimes very long, atmospheric sentences. The landscape described is stunning and simultaneously evokes an historic era of darkness. While Silvie is a character the reader can easily identify with, her father is just despicable while her mother drove me insane with her passivity.
What drew me right into the story was the wonderfully crafted prologue. The rather slow-paced, almost pastoral main tale then illustrates how very much this novel deals with the dark sides of humanity. A lot of readers have addressed the book as a predominantly feminist story about domestic abuse. However, my feeling was that this is only part of what this novel is really about. Yes, it is about downtrodden wives and men who don't treat their family well, but it is also very much about identity and misguided notions of racial purity. Something that is obviously impossible, has never really existed and is therefore the downfall of some of the characters in this story.
Ghost Wall is a haunting little book that, despite its shortness, sticks with you for its brutal depiction of human frailty. I highly recommend it.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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