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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Planned Parenthood Makes a Huge Bet
The women’s-health organization will stop taking money from Title X, a government family-planning program, in light of a new rule that bars doctors from making referrals for abortion procedures.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Could Win Again
He’s unpopular, scandalous, and a bigot, and we may be sliding into a recession. But that might not matter.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
Why Conservatives Are Turning Against Higher Education
This article was updated on August 20, 2019 at 5:53pm A native of small-town Missouri who excelled at Stanford and Yale Law School, Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, is keenly aware of how higher education can serve as a springboard into