“Lights blind you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.”
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss is a dark and powerful novella filled with nature, perseverance, history, and shattering perspectives.
Silvie spends two weeks of summer with her parents in the North of England, attempting to live like Iron Age Britons. They join an anthropology class set to live exactly as people did way back in the day. They spend their time navigating the woods, sleeping in tents, hunting and gathering, and even dressing traditional in essentially cloth sacks.
Silvie’s father is obsessed with ancient British history and an extremely abusive person. He beats his wife and daughter for the smallest issues and enjoys the control and power it gives him. It leaves Silvie terrified to even have her own thoughts, dare they stray from what her father wants.
One of the students in the group, Molly, begins to pick up on Silvie’s situation. She teaches her that there are other ways to live and awakens Silvie to better possibilities.
“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, to tend our fire as they tended theirs and hope that some of their thoughts, their way of understanding the world, would follow the dance of muscle and bone. To do it properly, I thought, we would almost have to absent ourselves from ourselves, leaving our actions, our re-enactions, to those no longer there. Who are the ghosts again, us or our dead? Maybe they imagined us first, maybe we were conjured out of the deep past by other minds.”
I found Moss’s writing to be excellent, and this story to contain fascinating looks at history past and present, combined with a family story, a young girls awakening, and at the very last a thriller. I loved the end, although I was nervous, hoping it wouldn’t go where I thought it was headed. Where it went in the end, made complete sense, fit the story perfectly.
“The shadows were long in the grass, the whole moorland low and still in slanting yellow light. In the east the trees stood dark against the sky and all the colours were fading. A late flight of birds winged the air, homeward bound.’’