Author: Sarah Moss
Format: Paperback 160 pages
Release Date: 20 September 2018
Publisher: Granta Books
My Rating: ****
This advance review copy was provided to me by Granta Books. This is an honest review based on my personal opinions of the book.
Silvie and her parents decide to undertake an experimental archaeology project together with a professor and three of his students. Silvie’s father is borderline obsessive with history and his need for the group to re-enact and experience the living conditions as close as possible to what their ancestors would have. The professors students however, are only there for a grade and would much rather sneak off down to the local village shop to buy chocolate bars.
Friction stirs within the group with Silvie caught in the middle as she struggles with her need to please her father versus her feelings of unhappiness and desperation.
Although this is a short read at only 160 pages, as a reader I experienced from the start the distinct feeling of unease that all was not right with Silvie’s situation in the wilderness.
“Don’t, I thought, don’t laugh at him, it won’t be you who catches it, don’t make him feel stupid”
This book is very much about reading between the lines and what the author has done quite cleverly through her writing style, is give the reader the foundations to the story whilst allowing the reader to interpret the rest to an extent.
For a very short book I feel the author accomplishes a lot and develops the plot and characters well in a short space of time. However, at no point did the book feel rushed. If anything, I feel that if the book was longer it wouldn’t have created the impact that it does.
It is quite interesting how the author has depicted the characters of Silvie and her mother and father. Silvie’s father is very much the dominant force and head of the household, whilst her mother is completely subservient and Silvie expected to be the model child and follow her fathers instructions.
“Because they are men. I thought, because they are in charge, because there will be consequences if you don’t”
The characters could be seen as taking on the roles of what a ‘traditional’ family would have been like some years ago with the male as the head of the household, wives tending to the needs of their husbands, and children who were expected to be seen and not heard. This all weaves together rather beautifully with the storyline of the family re-enacting Ancient British life in the wilderness. The author builds these characters steadily throughout the book with the main emphasis on Silvie and by the end of the book I really felt as if I had been on a journey with her.
This book covers so many topics, history, abuse, family dynamics, friendships, cult mentality, dictatorship, and I’m sure other readers will pick out other hidden depths that I might not have. There really is something for everyone in this book.
This book is best read when you have some time on your hands. You can appreciate the story better if you read larger sections in one sitting rather than the odd few pages here and there. So what are you waiting for? Clear your schedule!
About the Author
Sarah Moss is a Professor at the University of Warwick. Ghost Wall is her sixth novel, following Cold Earth, Night Walking, Bodies of Light, Signs for Lost Children, The Tidal Zone and a memoir about living in Iceland, Names for the Sea. She has been shortlisted for the Welcome Book Prize three times and the RSL Ondaatje prize once. She has written for the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent and BBC Radio and has been a reviewer on Radio 4’s Saturday Review. She was a guest curator at last year’s Cheltenham Literary Festival. She lives in Coventry with her husband and two sons.
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