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Ghost Wall: A Novel

Ghost Wall: A Novel

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Ghost Wall: A Novel

évaluations:
4/5 (35 évaluations)
Longueur:
133 pages
2 heures
Sortie:
Jan 8, 2019
ISBN:
9780374719555
Format:
Livre

Description

A Southern Living Best New Book of Winter 2019; A Refinery29 Best Book of January 2019; A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 at The Week, Huffington Post, Nylon, and Lit Hub; 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 worthy match for 3 a.m. disquiet, a book that evoked existential dread, but contained it, beautifully, like a shipwreck in a bottle.”
—Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker

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.

Sortie:
Jan 8, 2019
ISBN:
9780374719555
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Sarah Moss is the author of Summerwater, a best book of the year in The Guardian and The Times (UK), and Ghost Wall, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a best book of the year in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, Nylon, and other publications, as well as a nominee for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Her previous books include the novels Cold Earth, Night Waking, Bodies of Light, and Signs for Lost Children, and the memoir Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland. She was educated at the University of Oxford and now teaches at University College Dublin.


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Ghost Wall - Sarah Moss

us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

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 her up. No need to be rough, everyone knows what is coming. From deep inside her body, from the cord in her spine and the wide blood-ways under the ribs, from the emptiness of her womb and the rising of her chest, she shakes. A body in fear. They lead the fearful body over the turf and along the track, her bare feet numb to most of the pain of rock and sharp rushes. Chanting rises, the drums sound slow, unsyncopated with the last panic of her heart. Others follow, wrapped against the cold, dark figures processing into the dusk.

On arrival, they strip her. It is easy; they have put her into a loose tunic. Against the low red light of the winter sunset, her body is white as chalk, solid against the wisps of fog and the tracery of reed. She tries to cover herself with her hands, and is not allowed. One holds her while the other binds her. Her breathing is accelerating, its condensation settling on her face. Exhaled breaths hang like spirits above each person’s head, slowly dissolving into the air. The men turn her to face the crowd, they display her to her neighbours and her family, to the people who held her hands as she learnt to walk, taught her to dip her bread in the pot and wipe her lips, to weave a basket and gut a fish. She has played with the children who now peep at her from behind their mothers, has murmured prayers for them as they were being born. She has been one of them, ordinary. Her brother and sisters watch her flinch as the men take the blade, lift the pale hair on the left side of her head and cut it away. They scrape the skin bare. She doesn’t look like one of them now. She shakes. They tuck the hair into the rope around her wrists.

She is whimpering, keening. The sound echoes across the marsh, sings through the bare branches of rowan and birch.

There are no surprises.

They place another rope around her neck, hold the knife up to the setting sun as it edges behind the rocks. What is necessary is on hand, the sharpened willow withies, the pile of stones, the small blades and the large. The stick for twisting the rope.

Not yet. There is an art to holding her in the place she is entering now, on the edge of the water-earth, in the time and space between life and death, too late to return to the living and not time, not yet, not for a while, to be quite dead.

DARKNESS WAS A LONG TIME coming. The fire crackled, transparent against the trees, its purpose no more, no less, than ceremonial. We had been pushed away from each other by the heat that no one wanted. Woodsmoke stung my eyes and the rock dug into my backside, the rough tunic itchy under my thighs. I slipped my foot out of its moccasin and pointed my toes towards the fire for no reason, to see how it felt. You can’t be cold, my father said, though it was he who had lit the fire and insisted that we gather around it. I can, I thought, if I’ve a mind, but I said, no, Dad, I’m not cold. Through the flames, I could see the boys, talking to each other and drawn back almost into the trees as if they were thinking of melting into the woods and creeping off somewhere to do some boys’ thing at which I would probably be more skilled. My mother sat on the stone where my father had told her to sit, tunic rucked unbecomingly above her fat white knees, staring into the flames as people do; it was boring and my father was holding us all there, bored, by force of will. Where do you think you’re going, he said as I stood up. I need, I said, to pee, and he grunted and glanced towards the boys, as if the very mention of biological functions might incite their adolescent passions. Just make sure you go out of sight, he said.

Within a few days, our feet would wear a path through the trees to the stream, but that first night there was moss underfoot, squashy in the dim light, and patches of wild strawberries so ripe and red they were still visible in the dusk, as if glowing. I squatted to gather a handful and wandered on, picking them out of my palm with my lips, kissing my own hand. Bats flashed through the space between branches, mapping depth into the flat sky, their calls brushing the upper range of my hearing. It was odd to walk in the thin leather moccasins, only a layer of borrowed—stolen—skin between my feet and the sticks and stones, the damp patches and soft places of the woods. I came to the stream and squatted beside it, dipped my fingers, listened. Water over rock and peat, leaves stirring behind me and over my head, a sheep calling on the hill. Fresh dew came through my shoes. The stream tugged at my fingertips and the heather explored my legs, bare under the tunic. It was not that I didn’t understand why my father loved these places, this outdoor life. It was not that I thought houses were better.


WHEN I RETURNED to the fire, my mother was kneeling at its side, not propitiating the gods but hefting slabs of green turf from a pile. Give us a hand, Sil, she said, he says if you do it right you can cover it for the night and pull the turfs off in the morning, he says that’s how they always did it, them. In the old days. Yeah, I said, kneeling beside her, and I suppose he didn’t say as how there was someone to show you, in the old days, how they didn’t just give out instructions and bugger off. She sat back. Well, she said, but they’d have known, wouldn’t they, back then, not have needed telling, you’d have learnt it at your mam’s side, and don’t use language like that, he’ll hear you.

We were sleeping in the roundhouse, my parents and I. The students had built it earlier in the year, as part of a course on experimental archaeology, but they had been firmly resistant to my father’s view that everyone should sleep in it together. There was no reason, my father said, to think that Ancient British households had been organised like modern families, if the students wanted a real experience they should join us on the splintery bunks they had built and padded with three deerskins donated by the anachronistic local lord of the manor. Or at least, since he lived in London and certainly didn’t spend his summers in Northumberland, that he had allowed someone to donate on his behalf. Professor Slade said, ah well, after all, authenticity was impossible and not really the goal anyway, the point was to have a flavour of Iron Age life and perhaps some insight into particular processes or technologies. Let the students sleep in their tents if they prefer, he said, there were almost certainly Iron Age tents also. Skin tents, Dad said, none of this fancy nylon stuff. The tent we used on our holidays was made of canvas the colour of apricots and possibly left over from the Second World War.

I had noticed that the students had pitched their inauthentic bright and waterproof nylon tents in the clearing below our hut, screened by trees and hillside from both the roundhouse and the Professor’s larger tent nearer the track where he kept his car. I could sleep in one too, Dad, I said, give you and Mum some privacy, but Dad didn’t want privacy, he wanted to be able to see what I was up to. Don’t be daft, he said, of course you can’t sleep wi’ the lads, shame on you. Anyway, privacy’s a fancy modern idea, exactly what we’re getting away from, everyone trying to hide away and do what they want, you’ll be joining in with the rest of us. I did not know what my father thought I might want to do, but he devoted considerable attention to making sure I couldn’t do it.

The bunks were exactly as uncomfortable as you’d expect. I had refused to sleep wearing the scratchy tunic that my father insisted, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, to be the Ancient British nightdress as well as daywear, but even through brushed cotton pyjamas the straw-stuffed sack was prickly, smelt like a farmyard, and rustled as if there were small mammals frisking in it every time I moved. The darkness in the hut was complete, disconcerting; I lay on my back moving my hands in front of my face and saw nothing at all. My father turned, sighed, and began to snore, an irregular bovine noise that made the idea of sleep ridiculous. Mum, I whispered, Mum, you awake? Shh, she hissed back, go to sleep. I can’t, I said, he’s too loud, can’t you give him a shove. Shh, she said, go to sleep, Silvie, close your eyes. I turned onto my side, facing the wall, and then back because it didn’t feel like a good idea to have my back to the darkness. What if there were insects in the straw, ticks or fleas, what if they crawled inside my pyjamas, what if there was one now, on my foot, maybe all the way up my leg, jumping and biting and jumping, and on my back, coming through the sack, several of them, on my shoulders and my neck—Silvie, hissed Mum, stop wriggling like that and go to sleep, you’re getting on my nerves summat proper. He’s getting on my nerves summat proper, I said, they can probably hear him in Morbury, I don’t know how you put up with it. There was a grunt, a shift. The snoring stopped and we both lay still, frozen. Pause. Maybe he’s not going to breathe again, I thought, maybe that’s it, the end, but then it started again, a serrated knife through cardboard.

WHEN I WOKE UP there was light seeping around the sheepskin hanging over the door. They probably didn’t actually have sheep, the Professor had said, they were hunters, not farmers, but there’s a limit to how far we can pretend farming never happened. To some extent we would have to take what we could get and sheepskins are a lot easier to pick up on the open market than deerskins. While I was glad we weren’t going to be hacking the guts out of deer in the woods with flint blades, I thought the Professor’s dodging of violence pretty thoroughly messed up the idea that our experiences that summer were going to rediscover the lifeways of pre-modern hunter-gatherers. He’s right, you can’t reverse farming and land ownership, there’s been no wilderness in Britain for centuries and, as Dad sometimes said, no real hunting for the likes

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Ce que les gens pensent de Ghost Wall

3.9
35 évaluations / 14 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (4/5)
    Abusive father and husband drags wife and daughter on archeological expedition with a local professor. Three university students are along for the trip and the young woman among them guesses pretty quickly just how dreadful this father is. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this novel. It was very well written, and, thankfully, short because the abuse is palpable as this man lives his dream life of existing during Britain’s Iron Age while caring little for the welfare of those around him. I’m left with an icky feeling.
  • (3/5)
    This was a book I really wanted to like but it read like a tense narrative about domestic abuse combined with filler. It just doesn’t deliver.
  • (4/5)
    Sarah Moss' Ghost Wall is foremost a novel of toxic patriarchy. A boorish, prudish, and humorless father bullies and abuses his wife and Silvie, his teen daughter, and justifies himself by his consuming obsession for recreating the purity of pre-Roman Britain. Jim Slade, a clueless and spineless archeology professor, allows himself to be dominated and manipulated by Silvie’s father. Ghost Wall occurs during a two week field trip as part of an undergraduate course on ”experimental archaeology”. Professor Slade admits that ”after all, authenticity was impossible and not really the goal anyway, the point was to have a flavour of Iron Age life”. Silvie’s father maintains his tiresome adherence to an ill-conceived idea of pre-Roman authenticity, hoping to recreate the glory days of ancient Britain before its dilution by the Romans and other invaders. The action in Ghost Wall occurs largely in the interstices between Sylvie’s father rigidity, the abused Sylvie and her mother, the fungible views of Professor Slade, and the relaxed attitudes of the students, just trying to comfortably live through their two week field assignment.Ghost Wall is told through Silvie’s first person teen voice, which is economical, measured, and highly effective. Silvie, named for Sulevia, the ancient Northumbrian goddess of springs and pools, hovers between loyalty to her father, embarrassment for him, and fear. Silvie’s father is largely portrayed in off-hand observations and in reflections by the students. Here’s one of the students: ”Is he always like that, Silvie? I mean, sorry, I know he’s your dad and all but. Like what, I said, a show-off and given to brutality, yes, actually, mostly he is, sorry.” In Silvie’s mind, the students are rich and disrespectful, she and her family are poor and disrespected. Here’s an interchange about Silvie’s mother’s accent: ”sorry, Silvie, I shouldn’t have imitated her, I just really like the way it sounds. Well, it’s not the way you sound, I said, so don’t. She touched my shoulder and I flinched. Sorry, she said again. Really, Silvie, don’t be cross. It’s OK, I said, just don’t laugh at people’s accents, you do know yours sounds weird to me, posh.”Moss is a fearsome stylist and she maintains narrative tension throughout. She sets up a difficult narrative task for herself, since she starts Ghost Wall by foreshadowing its climactic scene: ”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.” Throughout Ghost Wall, the reader wonders not so much what happens as when will it happen and to whom. We know it happens to woman, but we don’t know which one of four women. Moss maintains an undertone of impending threat, although the exact nature of the threat is left unexpressed.I would like to thank Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley in providing me with an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.3.5 stars
  • (4/5)
    This was a dark little tale: an Iron Age reenactment being carried out one summer in North England with two sets of players: an "experimental archeology" professor and three 20-something grad students in it for the class credit and a lark, and a family there to satisfy the father's obsession with the time period and a "pure" England. More than a tale of old ways vs. new, it's a class conflict story above all, town and gown in particular. The professor and his students are breezy and often sloppy, with the implication that they can afford to be, but for the bus driver father, and the wife and daughter he drags along in his wake, this is grimly serious business. That combination of class and cultural nostalgia as the driving force for dysfunction made me think of a less wan (and damp) [Elmet], with a little [Lord of the Flies] thrown in. The abusive, obsessive father was drawn in too-broad strokes, I thought, but the 17-year-old narrator, Silvie, is complex and interesting, a terrific voice. The writing is nice throughout, and the story is uncomfortable and at the same time engaging.
  • (5/5)
    Ghost Wall is narrated by the teenage daughter of a Northumbrian bus driver who takes part in a reenactment of pre-Roman life as part of a class in experimental archaeology. Sylvie and her mother are there, wearing tunics and obeying Sylvie's father as he joins with the professor in guiding the project. As the two men become more and more involved in exploring possible spiritual rites practiced by early Britons, her father's controlling behavior amplifies. Sarah Moss has here written a short novel that is exactly as long as it needs to be. There is a lot packed into the pages of this book, but it never feels rushed or condensed. Sylvie is a wonderful character to follow, combining an innocence with a knowledge of the world a seventeen year old should not have. There's a lot of subtle menace here, and the reactions and the interactions between the participants in this field trip are sharp and wonderfully written.
  • (4/5)
    A short and dark book about a small group of people, including a family, that are part of an archaeological experiment where the group lives as if they are in the Iron Age. TW: abuse.I really enjoyed the story, but would have loved quotations or something to indicate when people were speaking (just a personal preference).
  • (4/5)
    17-year-old Silvie and her parents are spending the summer living like Iron Age Britons, her father having talked his way into joining a professor and his three students on an “experiential archaeology” course. Silvie’s father is obsessed with ancient Britain, and under his tutelage Silvie has acquired considerable knowledge of outdoor survival techniques, like foraging for food. Although socially awkward, Silvie’s knowledge earns her credibility with the students, who routinely escape the camp to buy modern conveniences in a nearby village. Silvie doesn’t dare cross her father; her mother is also cowed by his strict enforcement of Iron Age practices.Ugliness lies just beneath the surface. When Silvie’s father reveals his true nature, she tries desperately to cover up his behavior. Her mother looks on helplessly but Molly, the lone female student, knows something is not right. And as the men bond together, the focus of their conversation and activity turns toward Iron Age fighting methods and violent rituals. Suddenly, a somewhat offbeat summer holiday has turned into something frightening. The suspense in this short novelis palpable, and the ending just right, leaving much to think about.
  • (4/5)
    Overall, I enjoyed this book, a little bit different and certainly an interesting subject matter. Here, in the United States, most everyone is familiar with Civil War re-enactments but apparently, re-enacting ancient civilization in Britain is a thing. The reader is introduced to it in this novella which suggests that dark doesn't only belong to the dark ages. Modern civilization contains its secrets just as the ancients had theirs. Silvie's father is one such enthusiast, self taught and eager to participate with a college professor and his students on a two week field trip, bringing along his daughter and wife to do the dirty work. He wishes to make the trip as authentic as possible and is sometimes restrained by the Professor. He has an ugly disposition which, sometimes, makes for a difficult read. Most readers will be satisfied with the conclusion.The author has chosen to forego quotation marks, sometimes dialog runs together with narrative which gives the story a disconcerting and uneasy feel, maybe foreshadowing what is to come.
  • (3/5)
    This book left a really bad taste. It was promoted as a story about a family that joins an archaeology class for a two week outing to "live like the ancient Britons". But the outing is really unnecessary to the primary focus: the terror Silvie and her mother experience around their abusive father/husband. The book is quite successful at depicting this. The mother is almost unable to function without direction, and both women are frequent targets for the father's rage and violence. Even Silvie, at age 17, still excuses his behavior, although she can't help pushing his buttons, so she's got a bit of spark in her still.At any rate, I was really disappointed and put off at the story that emerged. The ending seemed highly unlikely and was distasteful, and I'm sorry I read it. The rating, such as it is, is for what is successful about the book, not for how much I appreciated it.
  • (4/5)
    Sarah Moss gives us a fascinating short novel with both coming-of-age and dark mystical qualities while also serving as a timely meditation on issues surrounding nativism. She uses the idea of walls to explore the latter: Do we confuse love (of people, country) with ownership? Does ownership require keeping things unchanged forever? Does preoccupation with ownership inevitably lead to pain for and constraint of others? Ancient walls (e.g., Hadrian’s, The Great Wall in China) and their modern counterparts (Berlin, Israel, US southern border) are metaphors for a myriad of passions surrounding safety, ownership, class, and ancestry. This novel questions the ultimate effectiveness of such structures at conserving these ideals.Silvie Hampton is a 17-year-old working class girl who is spending time with her family in a re-enactment of bronze/iron age life in rural Northumbria. She has low self-esteem and confusion about her place in the world while being sensitive to her father’s physical abuse of her and her mother.Silvie’s father, Bill, is an amateur expert on pre-Roman history. He harbors a disdain for the modern world and believes that the ancestors of the early Britons (of course Bill is one of these) are the privileged ones. All people who came later he considers to be interlopers. In essence, he is a racist with brutal tendencies.Moss wonderfully captures the Northumbrian setting where a group of college students are participating in a course on experimental archeology lead by their professor. These kids serve to emphasize issues related to a privileged class vis a vis the workers as exemplified by Silvie and her family.Moss cleverly weaves archeology with British ancient history to provide the reader with a tense, eerie but ultimately enlightening narrative about misogyny, gender bias, nativism, child abuse, and class in the modern world. Ultimately it asks whether mankind has truly evolved very far from its ancient roots.
  • (5/5)
    Sylvie Hampton's father Bill rules his family with an iron fist and an ever-ready belt. Sylvie's mother is completely cowed; Sylvie avoids riling his anger.Bill is obsessed with the Iron Age Britons and, especially the bog people sacrifices. When he is invited by an experiential archaeologist and some of his graduate students to take part in a two week reenactment, Bill jumps at the chance and takes his family along.Although the graduate students take the reenactment less than seriously as they sneak into town for a beer or a shower, Bill insists his wife and daughter remain authentically in their support roles.They forage for food, and create a ghost wall - a barrier with skulls along the top to act as a warning to other tribes.As they chant and sing and drum, something seems to awaken within them and Bill wants to go to the next step, trying out some of the pre-sacrificial techniques he has read about and learned. And his daughter can't say no ….I found this quite creepy with the suspense building up like the beating of a drum or a frightened heart. I gulped it all down in one sitting – good thing it was short! - as I couldn't bear to put it down before I learned the ending.
  • (5/5)
    Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss 2018 Farrar, Straus, Giroux 5.0 / 5.0TRIGGER: extreme child abuse, detailed animal skinningThis left me absolutely numb-its written so well and so cohesively, its hard to believe its fiction. The subject of extreme child abuse and violence were so hard to read and difficult to comprehend. The depth and detail of writing in such a short novel is amazing.In the north of England, Silvie and her family join an anthropology class for 2 weeks one summer. It is living out a lifelong obsession of her father. They re enact and live as they did in the time of the ancient Britons during the Iron Age, in a remote area of the country. Using only tools available then (none, except your hands and feet), foraging for roots and hunting rabbits are daily events. The details of catching and preparing the rabbit to eat were very detailed and i had to skip that part....Also hard to read was the extreme violence and abuse against Silvie by her father. He is violent, and chauvinistic, vicious and cowardly. His attitudes were hard to read, for me. But written so well.This is outstanding, with great flow. This is not for the sensitive, but it is good to see such abuse being written about.
  • (2/5)
    I am completely underwhelmed by this book or maybe, since it seems to be getting really great reviews, I just didn't get it. I know it started it out strong and had, what seemed to me, a great premise for an intriguing story, but ultimately I was bored throughout the story and wondered what all the hype was about. I kept reading thinking I would be surprised with a great ending but I just found the ending weird and a bit unbelievable. Thanks go to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy and provide my honest opinion.
  • (4/5)
    My first read by this author, but it certainly won't be the last. I'm not sure I can even adequately explain why. It takes place in Northumberland, an archeological expedition, trying to imitate those that lived during the Iron Age. Silvie is seventeen, her father a bus driver with a obsessive interest in ancient Britain, and a mother who is somewhat of a doormat. Joining them on the professional end is a Professor with three of his students, including Molly who treats this experiment as more of a lark. Silvies father is an abusive man, who beats his wife and daughter for minor transgressions, instilling fear as a means of control. Needless to say, I despised him. Molly, with her modern ways, will show Silvie a different way of living, and awakens her to new possibilities. The site they are in was the place where an actual bog girl was found, sacrificed by her fellow community members. This fascinates Silvies father greatly.There are mesnings here, and contrasts, some because I don't live in Britain that I didn't get. The history they are living now has an underlying meaning, the ghost wall they build symbolizing the Berlin Wall contrasting with the barriers Molly tries to remove around Silvie, or so I think. The thing is, this is another book short on pages but chock full of symbolism, intriguing. In fact I found her writing to be excellent, and this story to contain fascinating looks at history past and present, combined with a family strory, a young girls awakening, and at the very last a thriller. I loved the end, though I was holding my breath hoping it wouldn't go where I thought it was. Where it went in the end, made complete sense, fit the story perfectly. So now I'm searching out this authors previous works to see if I find them just as intriguing.ARC from Edelweiss.