I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Sarah Perry and Sarah Moss talking about their respective books at the Cambridge Literary Festival. Sarah Perry was talking about Melmoth (reviewed here) and Sarah Moss about her latest novel The Ghost Wall. It’s fair to say that I was quite disturbed by The Ghost Wall and it was interesting to hear Moss say herself that she wouldn’t read the first few paragraphs as they were too disturbing for a book reading.
The story is about a family, Mum, Dad and seventeen year old daughter who spend one summer re-enacting Iron Age Britain in the countryside with a University professor and his students. Dad is a bit of an enthusiast and his desire to be authentic to the time period very quickly becomes sinister and threatening.
To me the key element of the book was the relationships between the characters even though there is a huge amount more packed into the book, impressive considering it is only 160 pages. Possibly there is too much but I didn’t feel that whilst reading it, it is only now a few days later that I am considering the possibility.
The book also examines boundaries between the present and the past and also between Britain and other countries, in particular, delving into the discussion is anyone truly British and how far back do we have to go to find a ‘true Brit’? Very interesting and very topical considering our current political climate and Brexit.
As I said, whilst reading The Ghost wall my main focus was the characters’ relationships with each other and I didn’t think too deeply about the other issues but at the Festival when I asked Moss why she had chosen the title of the book she clearly felt that the key theme of the book was boundaries.
I can only say that given the extent to which this affected me, it is very well written. Almost a week later and it is still vivid and clear in my mind. Therefore, I would definitely recommend it. I would also recommend going to hear Authors speak about their books at Literary Festivals. It really helps the book to come alive and gives you some fascinating insights to the writing process and the issues the author was trying to convey and explore.