I listened to Ghost Wall in January (January 2019! Seems I forgot to post this). I was spellbound. When I finished I couldn't settle on another audiobook to start after it, so I just listened to it again straight away. That was partly the story, but also the wonderful audiobook narration by Christine Hewitt. I loved her Northern English voice so much. It was one of the audiobooks where you sit in car parks after you've arrived somewhere just to keep listening.
The opening words are arresting.
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 - not the last stones- bruise her bare feet. 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."No need to be rough, everyone knows what is coming." I don't! I don't know what is coming, but I sure want to now... The first page or so sets an incredible scene, and then there is an abrupt change of pace, and I was initially confused by this change, thinking that I'd missed something. And so I started the audio again, but I hadn't missed anything.
Fifteen year old Silvie and her parents have joined a university excursion in Northumberland in the recent past. The Berlin Wall has recently fallen. Silvie's father is obsessed with Iron Age Britain, and the excursion is an exercise in 'experiential archeology', a reality tv type experience of living as people would have done some 2,000 years ago. Silvie's father is not an academic though, he's a working man, a bus driver, and the Iron Age is his hobby, and he's dragging his family along with him on his annual leave. Because of his passion for it his wife and daughter have become experts in the Iron Age too.
The group must are wearing scratchy gather their own food, and it falls to Silvie's mother to prepare food for everyone- the Professor, the three university students, and her own family.
I didn't see quite a few of the themes as strongly as many English readers, people I follow on booktube. But certainly Sarah Moss was talking about Brexit and migration and very modern issues in her ancient story.
Ghost Wall is such a tight compact little book. It is rather tense at times. There is a lot to think about. I have some minor quibbles with the very end of Ghost Wall, but that wasn't enough to diminish my joy in this fascinating tale.
Sarah Moss on her blog, On Prehistorical Fictions
CBC Interview with Sarah Moss