Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Sarah Moss is an astounding writer.

In my opinion there is nothing more that needs to be said, but given that this is my review section, I ought to expand…

I was gifted a copy of Sarah’s novel Cold Earth back in 2014 and I talk about it in my review of Sarah Davis-Goff’s Last ones Left Alive. I thought it was a masterpiece of suspense and one of the greatest pieces of dystopian fiction I have ever read.

It is therefore no surprise that I was really excited for her latest novel Ghost Wall to be released in 2018, which had echoes of archaeology, oppressive weather and fraying emotions that made Cold Earth so brilliant.

I was surprised at how slim this book is, at 149 pages it is novella size, and I had trepidation that it might not deliver with as much clout as some of her longer pieces. I needn’t have worried.

Inside the woven cover art jacket, the hardback book is a vivid blood-red. Once you adapt to the style of unquoted dialogue, with the turning of every page is a slow and steady ratcheting sense of foreboding and dread.

Sarah presents a tyrannical father figure in an unbearably tense family dynamic. Set in the blistering heat of summer on the Northumberland moors, a historical re-enactment for the purposes of education descends into maniacal lunacy, as a bullying parent, bitter and resentful of the career and opportunities they never had, relentlessly punishes their child.

There is heat and discomfort at every turn, from the burning fire, the blazing sun, headaches, heatstroke and sun burn to the itch and scratch of clothing and bedding against sore, beaten skin.

As the story unfolds, the action becomes deeply unsettling mirrored by the mindful ignorance and indifference of so many of the adults. Thoughts of, ‘Surely this can’t be happening?’ collide with, ‘Somebody do something,’ as the book hurtles to its conclusion. I found it an incredible piece of writing.

You can also read my review of  Sarah’s latest novella, Summerwater, here.