The Atlantic

Ghost Wall Explores the Human Cost of Nativist Nostalgia

Sarah Moss’s new novel about Iron Age reenactors could have been a plain Brexit parable. Instead, it’s a deeper exploration of societal cruelty.
Source: English Heritage / Heritage Images / Getty

A ghost wall, according to the novelist Sarah Moss, is a battlement made by ancient Britons, hung with the preserved skulls of their ancestors. It didn’t work—the Romans still came, followed by the Anglo-Saxons and then the Normans—but you can see why the Iron Age Britons might have tried it. When walls are built to keep out foreigners, many of them rest on some idea of blood claim. This is our land, not yours. And we have the bodies to prove it.

Moss’s tiny, sharp knife of a novel follows a group of reenactors who call themselves “experimental archeologists” as they re-create Iron Age life in Northumberland, England, some time between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the advent of cellphones. The group is divided

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