Book Review – Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Ghost Wall

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss is about a young girl named Silvie, whose father brought her and her mother along on an archaeological trip to the north of England to experience what it was like to live in Iron Age Britain. Her father has an unnatural obsession with the ancient history of England, but also of the traditions he supposes went with it, including “traditional” roles of men and women, almost to the degree of cultist thought. Silvie is our narrator, through whose perspective we experience the land that belonged to her Iron Age ancestors, and experience her father’s abusive relationship with her. Thankfully Silvie makes some friends among the archaeology students and local residents during her stay, so that not all hope is lost for her.

Ghost Wall is a compelling read, not just because of what Silvie must go through with her father – though that is the most of it – but also because of Silvie’s relationship with the landscape. Moss describes the forests and coasts and bogs of the landscape through Silvie’s perspective so clearly that it is very vivid and easy for me to imagine being there myself. I kept wanting to know what new wonders Silvie would find in those woods, and I was impressed by how knowledgeable she is about the natural world as well as the ancient world.

That was the reason I had first picked up this book. As a classicist of course I would be interested in a book about archaeologists studying and pretending to live in Iron Age and Roman Britain. And of course there are the bog bodies, which give this book its subtle horror.

I was very happy that Moss had Silvie make such strong connections with other female friends such as Molly, the student Silvie admires (and very likely loves as more than a friend), and Trudi the town midwife who helps Silvie and Molly through their troubles.

I have no real criticisms to make of this book, and I now want to read more of Moss’ work.

I recommend Ghost Wall to everyone, but especially those who love ancient history, England, the natural world, or those who think they might relate to Silvie herself.

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