Review: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

38922230Verdict: This was a mixed bag.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Literary Fiction

Published by Granta, September 20th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Teenage Silvie is living in a remote Northumberland camp as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is an abusive man, obsessed with recreating the discomfort, brutality and harshness of Iron Age life. Behind and ahead of Silvie’s narrative is the story of a bog girl, a sacrifice, a woman killed by those closest to her, and as the hot summer builds to a terrifying climax, Silvie and the Bog girl are in ever more terrifying proximity.

Sarah Moss is one of those authors I have wanted to get to for what feels like ages because I had this feeling that I would adore her work. But sometimes that feeling of a potential favourite author makes me to anxious to actually pick up a book (this is irrational, I know), so I finally jumped at the chance to read and review her newest novel, because it sounds brilliant and it is quite short (I love short books). And I still think that Sarah Moss might be a potential favourite author, even if this book did not quite blow me away.

This book is set over a period of a couple of days, days Silvie and her family are spending in a experimental archeological setting, together with a professor and a few of his students. While the students can sleep in tents, Silvie’s controlling and obsessive father forces his family to sleep in what he deems “authentic” huts. Silvie latches onto the sole female student, while trying not to make her father angry (and obviously failing, because he always finds something to be angry about). Moss uses this setting to showcast a variety of awful things: abuse and dysfunctional family dynamics, misogyny and sexism, classism and racism. She does so adeptly and impressively, but it does make for a rather grim reading experience.

The setting and the atmosphere are the biggest strength of this book. Told in long, run-on sentences (a style I particularly enjoy), Sarah Moss plays with the limited variation of their everyday life. The atmosphere becomes ever more oppressive and instilled with a sense of foreboding that made me very scared for Silvie. Moss is in perfect command of her language in a way that made me savour the words and excited for more of her books.

In the end, this book is more a collection of clever observations and vivid scenes than a cohesive whole – it is extremely well-done but did not always work for me. It felt longer than its less than 200 pages because spending time in Silvie’s life is suffocating and repetitive, and while I know that this was on purpose and done exceedingly well, I did not always enjoy my reading experience.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Granta in exchange for an honest review.

15 thoughts on “Review: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

  1. Great review! I’m very intrigued by this one. And I totally know what you mean about putting off reading an author you think you might love, through fear they don’t live up to your high expectations; I definitely do that too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I might have just been the wrong reading mood for a book this introspective. And 140 pages go by so fast that this might really have effected my enjoyment. I will still be reading The Tidal Zone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was really looking forward to this one but was left feeling disappointed. I don’t know if I had misconceptions before reading it…..

    Liked by 1 person

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