By Marta Maretich
On a freezing January night, Upper Wimpole Street Salon members convened at the warm home of Lucasta Miller to hear renown novelist Sarah Moss talk about her latest book, Ghost Wall. Salon committee member, Jamilah Ahmed kicked off a conversation that soon grew into a wide-ranging and intimate discussion of the novel, its genesis and the themes of violence and identity that resonate through it.
Ghost Wall tells the story of a father and daughter whose participation in an Iron Age re-enactment takes a sinister turn. As the narrative progresses, it examines the dangerous nostalgia for a Britain “free from foreigners” and the way a certain kind of man tries to control the story of the past in order to gain purchase on the future—very much subjects for our times.
A residency in the north of England, where Moss admired the landscape and met a number of traditional craftspeople, provided her first spark of inspiration for Ghost Wall, she told the group. It led her to set the narrative in that part of the country and to focus on the connection between the ancient past and the present day.
Sarah revealed that the slim novel was originally part of a much larger project that involved multiple narrators all living in different historical periods. Curious about her progress, her editor asked to see what she’d done so far and she handed over the section, thinking it was unfinished. The editor disagreed and Ghost Wall was published as a stand-alone novel, to positive reviews.
“Sarah Moss is a writer of exceptional gifts. She writes better than anyone I know about the way we live now. She gives us so much. I love her work.” (Margaret Drabble)