Ghost Wall

A Novel

Sarah Moss

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A taut, gripping tale of a young woman and an Iron Age reenactment trip that unearths frightening behavior

The light blinds you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.

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 rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Praise for Ghost Wall

A Southern Living Best New Book of Winter 2019
An Indie Next Pick for January 2019

“Ghost Wall has subtlety, wit, and the force of a rock to the head: an instant classic.”
—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

“A master class in compressing an unbearable sense of dread into a book that can be read in a single horrified (and admiring) hour.”
—Sarah Perry, The Wall Street Journal

Sarah Moss was educated at Oxford University and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Warwick. Her books include the novels Cold Earth, Night Waking, and Signs for Lost Children, and the memoir Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland.