Rebecca's Reviews > Ghost Wall

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
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Archaeology is a recurring theme in Sarah Moss’s work: a way of making the effects of the past visible and tangible. When I heard what her new book was about I presumed it would be a reprise of her first, Cold Earth (which I only read earlier this year), a suspenseful speculative novel about an archaeological dig in Greenland at the time of a global plague. The books share a menacing atmosphere and they both ponder historical violence. In Ghost Wall, though, that violence more explicitly spills over into the present.

It’s the late 1980s and teenager Silvie Hampton and her parents have joined a university-run residential archaeology course in the North of England, near the bogs where human sacrifice once took place. Her father is a Rochdale-area bus driver, but British prehistory is his all-consuming hobby, so he’s gung-ho about this experiment in primitive living. They’ll skin rabbits with stone tools, forage for roots and berries, and build a wall of woven willow branches topped with animal skulls. What could be better?! As it turns out, it’s a stifling summer, and the students can’t sneak off to the convenience store or the pub often enough.

Nationalism, racism, casual misogyny – there are lots of issues brewing under the surface here. Mocked for her family’s accent, Silvie is uncomfortably aware of her class. Soon she finds herself attracted to Molly, one of the students. And, always, she must tread carefully to avoid angering her father, who punishes perceived offences with his belt or his fists. Women’s bodies and what can be done to them is central; as the climax approaches, the tricksy matter of consent arises. Though I enjoyed Silvie’s sarcastic voice, I was underwhelmed for much of the book. Yet I ended up impressed by how much Moss conveys in so few pages. It’s a timely #MeToo and post-Brexit story about scapegoating and the transgression of boundaries. If you haven’t read anything by Sarah Moss, do so immediately.
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Reading Progress

June 13, 2018 – Shelved
June 13, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
June 13, 2018 – Shelved as: novellas
June 13, 2018 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
June 13, 2018 – Shelved as: requested-from-publisher
June 13, 2018 – Shelved as: suspense
June 24, 2018 – Shelved as: reviewed-for-blog
September 2, 2018 – Shelved as: newbury-library
November 1, 2018 – Started Reading
November 6, 2018 – Finished Reading
March 27, 2019 – Shelved as: no-speech-marks

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message 1: by Cheri (new) - added it

Cheri Terrific review, Rebecca!

Rebecca Cheri wrote: "Terrific review, Rebecca!"

Thank you!

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