by Sarah Moss
Teenage Silvie is living in a remote Northumberland camp as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is an abusive man, obsessed with recreating the discomfort, brutality and harshness of Iron Age life. Behind and ahead of Silvie’s narrative is the story of a bog girl, a sacrifice, a woman killed by those closest to her, and as the hot summer builds to a terrifying climax, Silvie and the Bog girl are in ever more terrifying proximity.
This e-ARC was provided by NetGalley and Granta in return for an honest review.
When I read the synopsis for the book, I was intrigued and then when I googled the author, I was even more intrigued. This was the first time I was actually reading the author’s work and I was suitably equal parts excited and equal part cautious. However I am glad that in this particular instance, my excitement was worth it.
The book starts with immersing us into immediate action, the writing is so, so good I almost didn’t care that I didn’t understand everything that was happening within the first few percent of the book. The atmosphere is ever present and ever eerie. Moss really knows how to show rather than tell and seriously, I think one of the biggest points in its favour are the descriptions, the beautiful prose, the haunting atmosphere and the almost monster sitting on our chest feeling that I got while reading this was totally worth it.
In a camp in Northumberland, a professoor and his students are trying to live out the harsh and almost brutal realities of the Iron Age. As time passes, things start to look and feel not quite right, and slowly, things go awry in every which way possible. Throughout this all is Silvie, an innocent in the middle of the mess.
Silvie’s father Bill is an absolutely ghastly human being and even worse father to Silvie and her mother isn’t any better. Bill is an absusive, controlling and ignorant man and he proves that time and again in this book, I almost couldn’t read sometimes and had to pause at times because how very much I wanted to throw my iPad across the room. That’s how angry I was at him. His wife, Silvie’s mum, isn’t really any better, I am not sure if she’s been beaten down by Bill or if she’d always been this way. Either way, at one point, she had needed to take up the stance to protect Silvie from the monstrosity that was her father but she didn’t and for that, I can’t quite forgive her. I am aware how that sounds and I am aware that sometimes (most times) abused women are too beaten down to change things for their offspring but it just made me so very angry.
Silvie and Molly were, in their own way, the rebels and the driving force of the story. I absolutely loved them and felt for them and just wanted to keep them safe. The fact that Moss managed it in almost 150 pages was absolutely unbelievable. A haunting tale of abuse, ignorance, prejudice, misogyny and racism, with some truly wonderful historical touches, this book made me really happy with the fact that I was allowed to have the ARC for this.
Overall, an absolutely wonderful read if a bit dark and a bit scary. I read it in almost one sitting and trust me, I am gonna be reading it again if I have any say about it.