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Book Review: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Updated: Sep 23

By Greysen Braley

Ghost Wall is a suspenseful coming-of-age novel slash psychological thriller that tracks the experience of Northern English teenager Silvie, her Iron-Age obsessed father, her passive mother, Professor Slade, and a group of posh university students on an Experimental Archaeology trip gone wrong. Silvie’s apparently unhinged father acts as a trigger for the extremist behaviours spurred on by obsession, prompting the phenomenon of groupthink, and what Moss’s novel seems to suggest is an inherent and primal human desire for ritual, belief, and identity within the cosmos.

In just 147 pages, Moss manages to shrink the perceived gap between our ancient ancestors and ourselves, all while addressing scapegoating, abusive power structures, societal design, and personal identity. The main character, Silvie, is particularly tied to the broader theme of self-discovery and individuality versus conformity and pack-identity. Her budding sexuality is only a small and singular facet of this theme. Largely, her realisation of identity is more tightly bound with learning how to live, as her father’s reign of terror has continuously forced her focus away from personal growth and towards mere survival. By not focusing heavily on Silvie’s sexual orientation, Moss gives a multi-dimensional depth to her character and to what constitutes identity, which is often missed in LGBT+ literature. In addition to sexual identity, Moss addresses gender, geographic location, education, and wealth, tying them into the other great theme of social power hierarchies and abuse of power.

I read this book in one sitting on a hot day in the summer over a steaming cup of peppermint tea in Toppings & Co. And, although it was a perfect summer read, I can’t wait to read this chilling book again this winter. A little under a month ago I was so adamant that my partner had to read it, that I bought a hardback edition for him myself, and he also ended up reading it in one sitting. We’re still going on about what we think of it and all the questions we were left with, now weeks (in his case) and months (in my case) after the fact. I’d highly recommend this to avid and casual readers alike for its distinct prose, entertainment value, short length, accessibility, and, of course, the gayness.

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