The Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss

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. 

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5 thoughts on “The Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss

  1. I really want to read this book, but unfortunately it’s not available at my local library. I LOVE disturbing books *evil laugh*. Actually, I don’t like books that are just disturbing for the sake of being disturbing but I’m definitely attracted to stories with darker themes. Great review, I guess I’ll probably end up getting this on Kindle if the library never picks up a copy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this yesterday, by coincidence, after waiting about three weeks for it on a library reservation. Its opening pages are among the sparest and most haunting I can remember reading. Line 5 in particular – I won’t spoil for others. Also the use of the third person plural; very unusual.

    The main story itself is drawn with such skill and economy that it ought to be used as a masterclass for aspiring writers. Historic reference, character insight, physical setting, social justice – blended with impeccable and instinctive judgement, and never losing pace.

    Also interesting is its length. It reminded me of Megan Hunter’s ‘The End We Start From’ in that sense – a new trend towards shorter reads that aren’t labelled as such, just sold on the same terms as a novel.

    My only gripe is the addition of a character extraneous to the ‘reconstruction’ group, who I think was grafted on to make a late appearance so that the denouement of the story was possible. In fact I don’t think she was necessary and it could have been done without her.

    But a book for everyone to read. It makes me want to go to Warwick and study under Sarah Moss, that’s for sure!

    Like

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