Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Silvie is the seventeen-year-old protagonist of this novel. Silvie’s mother works as a cashier, while her father drives a bus. Her father however thinks of himself as an historian and has a passion for England’s History, particularly the Iron age and how the people survived and lived back in this period. It is this passion which sees Silvie and her family invited along to a camping expedition to Northumberland by Professor Slade. Professor Slade takes a group of students out into the wild to live and survive as the ancient Britons did back in the Iron age as a part of his course. Things seem normal at first but as time goes on, we see the father’s true nature start to emerge. Silvie’s father’s views on life and women are as draconian as the lifestyle of the ancient Britons they are copying. Not only that, we find he has a violent streak, that he enters when he “punishes” his wife and daughter for anything he deems as punishable. I tend to use the word palpable too much, but it describes Silvie’s fear perfectly. You can feel how terrified she is of making some mistake which will result in her or her mother being beaten. The tension builds slowly for such a short novel and leads to a climactic ending. Moss’s writing is beautiful and very descriptive. I have never been anywhere near the bogs and marshlands she describes but after reading her writing I feel like I have. A wonderful, short, powerful book. 4 stars.
Sarah Moss is the award-winning author of six novels: Cold Earth, Night Waking, selected for the Fiction Uncovered Award in 2011, Bodies of Light, Signs for Lost Children and The Tidal Zone, all shortlisted for the prestigious Wellcome Prize, and her new book Ghost Wall, out in September 2018.
She has also written a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea, which was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2013.
Sarah Moss is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in England.
There is an excellent interview with Sarah talking about Ghost Wall at Waterstones. Here is the link - https://www.waterstones.com/blog/the-interview-sarah-moss-on-ghost-wall-b628cbed