A teenager and her working-class family join a group of experimental archaeologists and must face the sinister connections between their own circumstances and the brutal lives of the Iron Age inhabitants of Britain.
The British writer Sarah Moss’s new novel, Ghost Wall... compresses large and urgent themes—the dangers of nostalgic nationalism, the abuse of women and children, what is lost and gained when humans stop living in thrall to the natural world—into a short, sharp tale of suspense ... I read Ghost Wall in one gulp in the middle of the night. It was a worthy match for 3 a.m. disquiet, a book that evoked existential dread, but contained it, beautifully, like a shipwreck in a bottle.
Moss expertly captures the hinterland of being an older teen who is not yet an adult, splicing Silvie’s encounters with shame, curiosity, desire and fear ... There is a spring-taut tension embedded in the pages, which is built up slowly by a number of means. Moss dispenses not just with speech indicators, but runs all the dialogue into regular sentences. It’s both breathless and indistinguishable from the other text ... The novel gradually narrows its focus, and the ending becomes a bottleneck from which character and reader feel they can’t escape ... Moss’s brevity is admirable, her language pristine. This story lingers, leaving its own ghosts, but with important lessons for the future of idealising the past.
... a compact, riveting book ... Moss immerses us in the pleasures of nascent sexuality and adolescent independence ... Moss is not much interested in giving Silvie and her rebellious tendencies room to breathe. This is a novel about being constrained, even trapped.