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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Ghost Wall

Ghost Wall

A Novel

Sarah Moss

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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.

More…

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.

Less…

Financial Times Books of the Year, The Guardian (UK) Best Books of the Year, The Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year

THEY BRING HER OUT. Not blindfolded, but eyes widened to the last sky, the last light. The last cold bites her fingers and her face, the stones bruise her bare feet. There will be more stones, before the end.

She stumbles. They hold...

Praise for Ghost Wall

“I stayed up half the night gulping down Sarah Moss’s slim, unnervingly tense novel. Ghost Wall has subtlety, wit, and the force of a rock to the head: an instant classic.”
—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

“I love this book. Ghost Wall requires you to put your life on hold while you finish it. It draws you into its unusual world and, with quiet power and menace, keeps you there until the very last page. Silvie's story isn't one you will ever forget.”
—Maggie O’Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

“This book ratcheted the breath out of me so skillfully that as soon as I’d finished, the only thing I wanted was to read it again.”
—Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

“A perfectly calibrated consciousness that is energetic and lonely and prone to sharp and memorable observations . . . This is a haunting, astonishing novel.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Thought provoking on multiple levels, with insights into primitive and modern societies, and coming of age in the face of family violence.”
Library Journal, starred review

“A novel as tightly woven as the baskets its heroine plaits, Ghost Wall is a startling and bloody blade of a book. A teenage girl, her parents, and a group of students agree to reenact life in Iron Age England over the course of a holiday, and slide into sacrifice. Elements of The Secret History combine with The Witch, plus bog bodies, patriarchal and class violence—it’s a slender, scath… More…

“I stayed up half the night gulping down Sarah Moss’s slim, unnervingly tense novel. Ghost Wall has subtlety, wit, and the force of a rock to the head: an instant classic.”
—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

“I love this book. Ghost Wall requires you to put your life on hold while you finish it. It draws you into its unusual world and, with quiet power and menace, keeps you there until the very last page. Silvie's story isn't one you will ever forget.”
—Maggie O’Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

“This book ratcheted the breath out of me so skillfully that as soon as I’d finished, the only thing I wanted was to read it again.”
—Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

“A perfectly calibrated consciousness that is energetic and lonely and prone to sharp and memorable observations . . . This is a haunting, astonishing novel.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Thought provoking on multiple levels, with insights into primitive and modern societies, and coming of age in the face of family violence.”
Library Journal, starred review

“A novel as tightly woven as the baskets its heroine plaits, Ghost Wall is a startling and bloody blade of a book. A teenage girl, her parents, and a group of students agree to reenact life in Iron Age England over the course of a holiday, and slide into sacrifice. Elements of The Secret History combine with The Witch, plus bog bodies, patriarchal and class violence—it’s a slender, scathing fable for today, made of the ingredients of the past thousand years.”
—Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Mere Wife

“Ghost Wall grabs you by the guts and never lets go. Dazzling."
—Elizabeth Day, author of The Party

“A thorny, thoroughly original novel about human beings' capacity for violence.”
Kirkus

“Tackling issues such as misogyny and class divides, Moss packs a lot into her brief but powerful narrative.”
Booklist

“The curious allure of re-enactment is cleverly explored in Moss’s short, potent novel . . . A Brexity tale to send shivers down your spine.”
—Rebecca Rose, The Financial Times, “Best Books of 2018”

"Ghost Wall . . . is further proof that [Moss is] one of our very best contemporary novelists. How she hasn’t been nominated for the Man Booker Prize continues to mystify me – and this year is no exception . . . a gripping narrative . . . It’s an intoxicating concoction; inventive, intelligent, and like no other author’s work."
—Lucy Scholes, The Independent, Five-Star Review

"Ghost Wall, a slim but meaty book, is like nothing I have read before; its creepy atmosphere has stayed with me all summer . . . Moss combines exquisite nature writing, original characters and a cracking thriller plot to make a wonderful literary curiosity. It deserves to pull her out of the bog of underappreciation and on to the prize podiums."
—Alex O'Connell, The Times (UK)

"Stunningly good, a tightly written, powerful book about archaeology and Englishness."
—Alex Preston, The Observer

"Moss truthfully conveys the way teenage girls make friends . . . In just 149 pages Moss does a remarkable job at building an engaging, textured world and Silvie is a likeable heroine. You root for her — and she might just surprise you."
—Susannah Butter, Evening Standard

“[Sarah Moss is] this divided country’s most urgent novelist. Her themes: the cycles of history, male absurdity, the forms female subversion may take, in irony, sickness and sacrifice. It helps that she’s absurdly topical, and that she’s funny.”
—Daniel Swift, The Spectator, “Books of the Year”

"Reading Ghost Wall in the context of contemporary Britain only serves to highlight the folly of wishing for the good old days . . . The book can be read as a Brexit fable, where seppuku levels of self-sacrifice are forged with lemming-like gusto . . . There is a spring-taut tension embedded in the pages . . . Moss’s brevity is admirable, her language pristine. This story lingers, leaving its own ghosts, but with important lessons for the future of idealising the past."
—Sinead Gleeson, The Irish Times

"Moss slowly ratchets up the tension, much as the Iron Age people they are studying used to slowly twist a length of rope around the necks of the human sacrifices they made, up on the nearby moors."
Roger Cox, The Scotsman

"[Combines] the components of a thriller with a nuanced understanding of history, its fluctuating interpretations and its often traumatic effect on the present . . . Moss’s sensual writing recalls the late Helen Dunmore . . . A bold, spare study of internecine conflict."
— Catherine Taylor, New Statesman

"Characteristically intelligent . . . both subtle and devastating . . . Moss is the author of five acclaimed novels but in this short volume has, I believe, produced her best fiction to date."
Totally Dublin

"The 'ghost wall' of the title becomes a powerful metaphor for the invisible boundaries that exist between different groups of people, not just in the past but also at the present time. Sarah Moss combines her research interests in food, place and material culture to good effect."
—Lucy Whetman, Press Association/The Telegraph

"Moss’s finely balanced novel combines a strong sense of the natural world with a growing atmosphere of menace, interspersed with wry humour."
—Anthony Gardner, The Mail on Sunday

“Certain to give you the chills and the creeps . . . Ghost Wall addresses issues of gender and class, British identity and borders, in 160 pages.”
– Sana Goyal, LiveMint

"Sarah Moss is fascinated by bodies and isolation, and by bodies in isolation . . . Here, [she] is again drawn to an adolescent female body . . . Moss appears to collapse layers of history, to render skin and knife and rope identical across millennia. What provokes and perpetuates that capacity for harm, and what powers a mystical belief in its propitiatory value, remains eerily unclear, but no less urgent a concern for us than for our ghostly forebears."
—Alex Clark, The Observer

“What I admire . . . is Moss’s ability to find an emotional connection with characters in the far distant past . . . Eerie and gripping.”
—Editor’s Choice, The Bookseller

Less…

Reviews from Goodreads

Sarah Moss

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.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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