Review: Ghost Wall - Sarah Moss
Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published: Granta Books, September 2018
My 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 quite unusual anthropological experiment: two weeks of iron-age reenactment. Silvie’s father has an obsession with this time period, that exceeds the normal professional curiosity of an anthropologist. He idolizes the way of life, when “times were simpler” and his dominant view of masculinity was the norm. At first, Silvie and her mother reluctantly agree in the reenactment, but as the days go by, they begin to wonder how dad is willing to go with his obsession.
Sarah Moss is at her best when writing family dynamics, and proves this again in this novel. With only a few scenes she paints a crystal clear picture of the characters, their relationships as a family, and the dynamics at bay, without ever saying a word too much and spelling out the obvious. She needs little set up to create an incredibly tense and uncomfortable situation, and the ending of this novel genuinely had me a little unnerved and on the edge of my seat. The darker themes are balanced out with beautiful prose, and some very interesting observations, that are as lyrical and sharp as Moss’s other works.
Despite all the above mentioned good, I was left with a feeling of wanting more after finishing it. With its 152 pages, Ghost Wall inhabits that shadowy area of not quite being a short story, but not quite a full length novel either. Although the story stands on its own just fine, I feel like there was more potentially to it than was included in the novel. With its current length, some things simply went a little too quickly and ended a little too abruptly for my taste. I would have happily read another 100 pages, if that meant that more of that potential could be released. I’m not fully committed to my rating yet, as Ghost Wall seems to be the type of book with a lasting aftertaste, and I feel myself still processing and digesting it even after putting it down. I might get even more out of it once it sits with me for a while. I’ll update if my opinion changes, or if I feel like I want to add to this review.
Edit: I was correct: this book has been in my mind a lot over the past few days and weeks, in the best way possible. This for sure is the type of book that "ghosts" in the back of your mind for a while and keeps you revisiting it long after you finish it. I have since upped my rating on Goodreads to a full 4-stars, and will do so on here as well.
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