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Ghost Wall: A Novel

Ghost Wall: A Novel

"As with a handmade rope around a vulnerable neck, Moss leads you through the experimental ecosystem she's conjured—here slackening the pace, here tautening, but never letting you lose sight of the tension pulling you forward, of the rough and unfamiliar sensation against your skin. For a novel set sometime in the 90s about characters playacting at Iron Age life, the concerns fleshed out in its slim pages—the ugly allure of nationalism, the chafing of class stratification, what kinds of knowledge and learning are privileged over others, the precarious position of having a female body—are as pressing as ever. This book is as elegantly brutal, and brutally elegant, as the human condition has ever been."

Lauren A.

See all my recommendations »

Author Sarah Moss
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date 2019-01-08
Section New Hardcover - Fiction / All Staff Suggestions / Fiction Suggestions / Lauren A.
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780374161927

Southern Living Best New Book of Winter 2019; A Refinery29 Best Book of January 2019; A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 at The Week, Huffington Post, Nylon, and Lit HubAn Indie Next Pick for January 2019

Ghost Wall has subtlety, wit, and the force of a rock to the head: an instant classic.” 
—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

"A worthy match for 3 a.m. disquiet, a book that evoked existential dread, but contained it, beautifully, like a shipwreck in a bottle.” 
—Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker

A taut, gripping tale of a young woman and an Iron Age reenactment trip that unearths frightening behavior

The light blinds you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.

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.

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