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Ghost Wall

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  14,422 ratings  ·  2,327 reviews
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
Hardcover, 152 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Granta Books
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Marlene Her work is first published in the U.K. before the U.S. I ordered my copy from a U.K. based online used book site.

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  14,422 ratings  ·  2,327 reviews

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Emily May
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, 2019
A dark, horrible, and powerful novella.

Ghost Wall tells the tale of Silvie and her family, who attempt to live like Iron Age Britons in the North of England. Silvie's father is an angry and dissatisfied bus driver whose obsession with Iron Age tools and rituals leads him to force his family into isolation. Out in the countryside of Northumberland, they hunt for rabbits and gather roots. But, of course, it all has a sinister twist.

The harrowing prologue drew me into this book, but the mostly quie
Amalia Gkavea
‘’Darkness was a long time coming.’’

This book is my first contact with Sarah Moss’s writing and it proved to be so fascinating...The word Ghost in the title, the bogs and Northumberland drew my attention to a novel that I read in a single sitting. It was mystifying, hypnotic, complex, powerful.

It is an unusually hot summer in Northumberland. Silvie and her parents are following a professor and his students in a camp that tries to imitate the daily life during the Iron Age. However, things st
Diane S ☔
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
My first read by this author, but it certainly won't be the last. I'm not sure I can even adequately explain why. It takes place in Northumberland, an archeological expedition, trying to imitate those that lived during the Iron Age. Silvie is seventeen, her father a bus driver with a obsessive interest in ancient Britain, and a mother who is somewhat of a doormat. Joining them on the professional end is a Professor with three of his students, including Molly who treats this experiment as more of ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
In a nutshell, I like my feminism a lot more nuanced than this.

A short novel about a family who go into the wilds to recreate as best as possible the conditions of an iron age settlement. There's a lot of (good) descriptive nature writing to pad out this very uneventful tale which always felt to me like a short story artificially fattened up.

Although set in the 1990s it felt more like the 1950s to me with a father who takes his belt to his teenage daughter for the most meagre of transgressions
Hannah Greendale
The line between past and present blurs in this brief narrative about seventeen-year-old Silvie and her family engaged in an archeological re-enactment of life in the Iron Age. Ghost Wall has been described as slim or spare, as mere bones, the charred remains of a book glittering in the ashes. All fitting descriptions for this novella, but here's another take on it: Ghost Wall is a tense short story bloated with filler.

The strength of this narrative is Moss' portrayal of domestic abuse, of the
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Eerie and atmospheric, Ghost Wall brings to the surface a teenager's repressed resentment toward her patriarchal father. The novella follows seventeen-year-old Silvie as she and her conservative parents attend a campsite in northern England, alongside the students and professor of an experiential anthropology course, where the group pretends to live as Iron Age Britons. The soft-spoken teen's problems multiply when her already-abusive father begins to take too seriously the camp's Iron Age playa ...more
I've read so many fantastic short novels and novellas this year (On Chesil Beach, Convenience Store Woman, Tin Man) that I'm not sure why I insist on underestimating what can be accomplished in such a short page count. But the fact of the matter is, I picked up Ghost Wall without terribly high expectations, despite the fact that I'd been eager to read Sarah Moss for a while now. More fool me - this book blew me away.

It follows Silvie, a teenager from northern England whose family joins an anthro
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, uk
Nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019
What an atmospheric, haunting, and ultimately political read! Sarah Moss writes about teenage Silvie, whose father is obsessed with ancient British history, because he (incorrectly) envisions it as a time of racial purity, strong borders, and dominance as well as (correctly) male authority. He physically and emotionally abuses both Silvie and her passive and fearful mother, thus wielding a power he is unable to exercise in his job as a bus driver.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
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 too 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 ...more
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novellas, sarah-moss
A brilliant little novella that can easily be read in one sitting. For a brief story with a simple plot, there is so much going on. It is set in Northumberland, in a hot summer in the early 1990s, in an Iron Age re-enactment camp. There is Professor Jim Slade and three of his students: Pete, Dan and Molly. Then there is the narrator, seventeen year old Sylvie (named after Sulevia the Northumbrian goddess of springs and pools) and her mother and father (Bill). Bill is a bus driver who is obsessed ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it


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
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Full review here
If there was a contest of writing, that will require telling a story using the least amount of words, this book would win it this year.
A borderline novella, Ghost Wall is a powerful story that could easily be read in one sitting.
I loved the idea behind this novel. The sacrificed bog girls, whose remains found, as characters they are quiet and unknown, as if they never existed but the proof of them being very much alive is there, in contrast with today's abused women in hands of b
Britta Böhler
Apr 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Well written, atmospheric setting, loved the main character (17-year-old-Silvie) but the other characters, men & women, but the men especially, were such cardboard cliché's. And the story: just nope. The Lord-of-the-Flies-theme is so overused and predictable and the ending was cheesy and felt like the author said: "Well, I don't know, what do do with it all maybe I'll just stop here."
I enjoyed this book fantastically, although finishing, it depressed me slightly. I agree wholeheartedly with several of the critical points I've seen about this book but I still appreciated it, and read with graceless haste, four stars? Well maybe 3.499997, or possibly 3.877765, somewhere in that ballpark for me.

It reminded me strongly of the completely different, The Tidal Zone, in that book the view point character is the paterfamilias observing his teenaged daughter in her health crisis, awar
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A quick read set in Northumberland, with some academics practicing "experimental archaeology" by trying to live as they did during the Iron Age. Also present - a controlling man with his wife and daughter, who do this every summer. The story is more about the daughter trying to move through life while she endures abuse.

I was hoping for an anthropology novel but found more similarities with other novels/memoirs about controlling men who move their families off the grid - think the first half of E
This is the kind of 3-star rating that means 5 stars for some things, and 2 stars for others. Ghost Wall is brilliant in some ways - but its political implications are not fully coherent, and there are details that don't ring true if you're familiar with the setting and subject.

Historical re-enactment and retro living doesn’t get a great press in fiction. (See for example, Todd Wodicka’s All Shall Be Well", Valentine in Nicola Barker’s The Yips, or more tenuously, Confederacy of Dunces) Perhap
Ghost Wall was a beautifully written novel (novella?) about something not so wonderful - an authoritarian, abusive man, whose wife and daughter fear him greatly. He's obsessed with history, especially the earlier epochs when people were "true Brits" and things were simpler. Unsurprisingly, not only is he abusive, but he's also misogynistic and bigoted.

He makes his family join a group of university students and their teacher on an experimental camping trip, presumably living like Iron Age people
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4-5 stars

It’s a hot summer in Northumberland (yes, it can happen). Silvie, her parents, some students and their professor set up a camp to try to live like Iron Age hunter gatherers as an archeological experience. This is a beautifully written story which draws on the stunning surroundings to create a very atmospheric tale.

Silvie and Molly, one of the students, are interesting characters. Silvie is controlled by her brute of a father but he can’t control her thoughts. Molly is a free spirit wh
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed the writing of Sarah Moss since reading, “Cold Earth,” in 2009 and was delighted to receive her latest work for review. This is a short novel, almost a novella, but still retains a huge amount of depth and interest.

A group of people are gathered for a trip in ‘experimental archaeology,’ recreating an Iron Age camp in Northumberland. There is the professor, Jim Slade, his students; Molly, Dan and Peter, and Silvie and her family. Silvie is seventeen and lives with her downtrodden
I am troubled by this story just as the author intended and impressed by the great writing and grateful to have discovered a new-to-me wordsmith with a bunch of published books I can’t wait to read. So many good reviews of this novella abound already... I feel I have nothing more of worth to add really. Perhaps I will later when I’m not quite so tired and slightly traumatized by this story*. It was worth the experience all the same.

Upgraded from 4.5 to 5 stars, and as there's currently an Audib
Peter Boyle
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This unsettling story revolves around a historical re-enactment in Northern England. A professor has invited Silvie, our 17-year-old narrator, and her family to join him and three students on a field trip, where they will live for a few days as Iron Age Britons. They wear itchy tunics, sleep in uncomfortable roundhouses and forage for food. Silvie enjoys the company of the students, particularly the outspoken, independent Molly. Gradually we learn that Silvie's father is abusive towards her and ...more
I get where this novella was going - it’s a short but sharp examination of xenophobia and it’s ridiculously nonsensical commentaries from those who insist Britain must remain ‘British’. We follow family unit of mum, Iron Age obsessed dad and Sylvie as they join a group of university students on an ‘experimental anthropology’ expedition that sees them reenacting life in the Iron Ages on the Northumberland moors. Except this is more than just an experiment for Sylvie’s dad, who believes that this ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

One of the sixteen books nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 longlist, this 2018 book takes readers to a summer in England as our teenage narrator, Silvie and her parents head to rural Northumberland to participate in an archaeology project that has them living like Britons during the Iron Age. Joining them is a university professor and his three students-Pete, Dan, and Molly.

There was something about this book that had me thinking "horror." Sarah Moss, much like many aut
Renee Godding
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 4/5 stars

“I shivered. Of course, that was the whole point of the re-enactment, that we ourselves became the ghosts, learning to walk the land as they walked it two thousand years ago.”

With Sarah Moss being the author of one of my all-time favorite novels The Tidal Zone, it’s no surprise that I was only a matter of time before I picked up her latest release Ghost Wall. This time, Moss focusses on the relationship between a father and a daughter, set against the background of a qu
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The beauty of this novel is in the clash between the bountiful, exuberant language which builds into this incredibly crisp picture, detailed and vibrant, and the terse, one sentence revelations that hold implications, secret knowledge, shared experience of such emotion that it feels like all the words in the world couldn't reveal the depths of it, but somehow say it all. Once you are lost in the flow of Silvie's story, it is mesmerising, the inevitability of violence like a gathering storm with ...more

Short story that is utterly engaging. Father, abusive to his wife and daughter Silvie. He's out there - wants to live like he is from a long ago era, dragging his family into his madness. Set in the North of England, the father joins some anthropology course with other students who plan to live off the land and be like it was so long ago. But then comes talk of this ghost wall and sacrifices. How quickly it delves into horror.

So glad I finally got to this one. Very interested in grabbin
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Well this was .... it was fine I guess.

The title was cool, I was preparing for something a little more perturbing like say Fever Dream , something creepy with Bog people. In actual fact it was far more enlightening to me to read this 2016 article from The Atlantic, but I digress.

I place this book alongside The Water Cure and The Natural Way of Things ( this last one mainly for the unfortunate demise of several bunnies) but in all three novels, women are repressed in various ways by tyrann
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now longlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize.

That was the whole point of the re-enactment, that we ourselves became the ghosts, learning to walk the land as they walked it two thousand years ago, to tend our fire as they tended theirs and hope that some of their thoughts, their way of understanding the world, would follow the dance of muscle and bone. To do it properly, I thought, we would almost have to absent ourselves from ourselves, leaving our actions, our reenactions, to those no longer th


fulfilling my 2020 goal to read (at least) one book each month that i bought in hardcover and put off reading long enough that it is now in paperback.

review to come!!!
Paul Fulcher
Now longlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize

We’re seeing if we can make a ghost wall, said the Prof, sitting back on his haunches. I was just telling your dad, it’s what one of the local tribes tried as a last-ditch defence against the Romans, they made a palisade and brought out their ancestral skulls and arrayed them along the top, dead faces gazing down, it was their strongest magic.

Sarah Moss's Ghost Wall sparked connections for me with two excellent novels - Melissa Harrison's recent All Among
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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

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“I shivered. Of course, that was the whole point of the re-enactment, that we ourselves became the ghosts, learning to walk the land as they walked it two thousand years ago, to tend our fire as they tended theirs and hope that some of their thoughts, their way of understanding the world, would follow the dance of muscle and bone. To do it properly, I thought, we would almost have to absent ourselves from ourselves, leaving our actions, our re-enactions, to those no longer there. Who are the ghosts again, us or our dead? Maybe they imagined us first, maybe we were conjured out of the deep past by other minds.” 13 likes
“Actually, said Molly, it’s no harder for girls to pee than boys, the problem isn’t biology, it’s men’s fear of women’s bodies. If we were allowed to pull our knickers down and squat by a wall the way you’re allowed to get your dick out and piss up the wall there wouldn’t be a problem, it’s just the way you all act as if a vagina will come and eat you if it’s out without a muzzle.” 9 likes
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