Sarah Moss

Add to shortlist
New website image.jpg

Photograph: University of Warwick

Books

Associate: Seren Adams

Books

Sarah Moss writes on the history and literature of food and travel. She co-edits, with Nicola Humble, the Food series at Manchester University Press, and has a BA, M.St. and DPhil from Oxford University. COLD EARTH (2009) was her debut novel, was followed by NIGHT WAKING (2011), both published by Granta. NAMES FOR THE SEA: STRANGERS IN ICELAND , which deals with her experience of spending a year in Iceland just after the country's economic collapse and during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, was published by Granta in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's 2013 Ondaatje Prize. BODIES OF LIGHT, a novel, was published by Granta in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2015. SIGNS FOR LOST CHILDREN, a continuation of the story of BODIES OF LIGHT, was published by Granta in July 2015 and was shortlisted for The Wellcome Book Prize 2016. Her latest novel, THE TIDAL ZONE, was published by Granta in July 2016 and was shortlisted for The Wellcome Book Prize 2017. 

Her new novel, GHOST WALL, was published by Granta in October 2018 to oustanding reviews, and is currently longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 and shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019.

Praise for GHOST WALL (2018):

‘[A] tiny, sharp knife of a novel […] Ghost Wall’s preoccupation with borders and class, authenticity and ancestry could render it a plain Brexit parable: the brutal and uneducated nativist in contrast with enlightened college students. But a persistent theme of this acutely lovely novel is the way in which all societies—whether ancient or modern, rich or poor—depend on scaffoldings of cruelty, from the meat they eat to the clothes they wear. […] [Silvie] offers a beautiful corrective to the rugged, wild-man archetype, and emphasizes the human cost of nostalgic nativism.’ The Atlantic 

‘Slim and eerie […] [Moss] possesses the rare light touch when it comes to melding the uncanny with social commentary. […] Moss vividly renders the natural world here, coaxing readers into experiencing everything from stepping on a pebble in thin moccasins to being sucked into a bog. […] Ghost Wall is such a weird and distinctive story: It could be labeled a supernatural tale, a coming-of-age chronicle, even a timely meditation on the various meanings of walls themselves. All this, packed into a beautifully written story of 130 pages. No wonder I read it twice within one week.NPR

‘For novelists, there are two paths to a place in the literary firmament. The first (and undeniably the ritzier) involves the publication of a novel, generally a debut, that bursts forth in such a blaze that its author remains permanently backlit by it. The second is slower, quieter, less sensational but ultimately perhaps more sustainable: the steady brightening of a reputation over the course of several books, until finally it’s impossible to imagine a time when the author wasn’t a fixed point in the heavens. Hilary Mantel is an obvious example; Tessa Hadley another; Kamila Shamsie a third… if you’re wondering which novelist will reach the tipping point next, take my advice: put your money on Sarah Moss. […] Imbued with Moss’s characteristic elegance, insight and deep sense of place, [Ghost Wall] packs a bigger punch than her other novels: at just 149 pages, it’s a short, sharp shock of a book that closes around you like a vice as you read it. […] From the terse, dismaying little prologue, in which an iron age girl is marched out and murdered before an audience of neighbours and family, to the hair-raising, heart-stopping denouement, it hurtles along and carries you with it, before dumping you, breathless, at the end. […] Moss describes the territory so richly that we come to feel we know every path, every pool, every bilberry patch. She gives a sense, through her writing, of what it would mean to live with the sort of physical contact with the world that our ancestors had. […] The real virtue of this novel resides in Moss’s ability to carry us with her: to lead us step by hot and grubby step to a shattering conclusion that in the reading feels not overblown or gratuitous but grotesquely plausible. Along with the students, there comes a point at which the setting overwhelms us, becomes so powerful that it forces us to suspend our disbelief and wait, helpless, for the end. Ghost Wall is a burnished gem of a book, brief and brilliant, and with it Moss’s star is firmly in the ascendant.’ Sarah Crown, Guardian (Book of the Day, 28th September 2018)

‘[Ghost Wall] compresses large and urgent themes—the dangers of nostalgic nationalism, the abuse of women and children, what is lost and gained when humans stop living in thrall to the natural world—into a short, sharp tale of suspense. The way Moss conjures up the dark magic and vestigial landscapes of ancient Britain reminded me a little of the horror movie “The Wickerman” […] The novel’s feminism, though, felt utterly contemporary. […] I was not familiar with Moss [but] I’m certainly intrigued by her now. I read Ghost Wall in one gulp in the middle of the night. It was a worthy match for 3 A.M. disquiet, a book that evoked existential dread but contained it, beautifully, like a shipwreck in a bottle.’ Margaret Talbot, New Yorker

Eerie […] There is an art to the preparation of a sacrifice, and as the prologue draws to its shivery end, we sense the intoxicating power of that art. Before we have read two pages, Moss has made us complicit in an act of primal violence. […] [Ghost Wall] is a compact, riveting book. […] [Silvie] is attuned to the habits of birds and bats and insects. She can identify roots and herbs. She reads waterways as if they were stanzas of music. Her presence in the novel is richly physical, and through her physicality, Moss immerses us in the pleasures of nascent sexuality and adolescent independence. […] Moss is sharply sceptical about historical re-enactment, especially the kind romanticized by men who seek lost “gender hierarchies.” She salts the novel with women who practice ancient skills with modesty, who honor historical experience without slavishly imitating it. […] If most of the women in “Ghost Wall” find solidarity through collaboration, the men become transfixed by their desire “to kill things and talk about fighting.” And it is with this theme that Moss lays down perhaps the most potent marker in the novel.’ The New York Times Book Review

‘[Ghost Wall] is further proof that [Moss is] one of our very best contemporary novelists. How she hasn’t been nominated for the Man Booker Prize continues to mystify me – and this year is no exception. […] Ghost Wall is full of uncomfortable truths about the modern world. Domestic violence finds its roots in ancient ritual sacrifice, and contemporary misogyny and xenophobia is shown to be just as grimly powerful as Iron Age superstition. It’s an intoxicating concoction; inventive, intelligent, and like no other author’s work.’ Independent (5* review)

‘Sarah Moss is one of those under-appreciated novelists cited by other under-appreciated women novelists as being ridiculously underappreciated. Guess what? They are right. […] Ghost Wall, a slim but meaty book, is like nothing I have read before; its creepy atmosphere has stayed with me all summer. It has a weird and wonderful premise […] it all gets fashionably gothic. […] Moss combines exquisite nature writing, original characters and a cracking thriller plot to make a wonderful literary curiosity. It deserves to pull her out of the bog of under-appreciation and on to the prize podiums.’ The Times

‘Parenting has been a prominent concern in Moss’s fiction. Ghost Wall shows it taking a monstrous form. […] Cranky tyranny becomes uglier as the story proceeds. There are flesh-creeping moments (poring over cuts on an Iron Age sacrificial victim, the father observes: “See, not enough to kill, just done for the pain like”), but Moss resists making him a mere ogre of sadistic patriarchy. Behind his horribleness there’s some pathos. […] It’s writing that, along with vivid responses to the natural world and acute alertness to class, regional and sexual tensions, recalls the early fiction of DH Lawrence. It brings enriching complexity to this tale of escalating menace.’ Sunday Times

‘Anyone who’s had to endure a bad camping holiday will feel for Sylvie. The teenage narrator of Ghost Wall is having to spend her summer in a remote Northumberland camp because her father is doing an exercise in experimental archaeology. Sarah Moss has range. […] [She] truthfully conveys the way teenage girls make friends: confiding secrets and absorbing the minutiae of their mutual lives while obsessively measuring themselves against one another. […] Moss is a sparse but evocative writer. […] In just 149 pages [she] does a remarkable job at building an engaging, textured world and Sylvie is a likeable heroine. You root for her – and she might just surprise you.’ Evening Standard

Is Sarah Moss the best British writer never nominated for the Booker? Fans are already shaking their heads that her new novel – as brief and unsettling as a bolt of lightning – hasn’t made this year’s cut. […] [Silvie’s father’s] increasingly unhinged zeal for historical re-enactment nudges the story away from hard-edged realism into surreally nasty terrain that pins us to the page with creeping menace’ Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail

Stunningly good, a tightly written, powerful book about archaeology and Englishness.’ Observer

Ghost Wall is a characteristically intelligent account of an impossibly complicated relationship […] [Silvie’s] father’s search for his own history beyond the realms of reason, or even self-preservation, is, in classic Moss form, both subtle and devastating – and the allusions to Brexit smart and poignant. […] [Moss] has, I believe, produced her best fiction to date.’ Totally Dublin  

‘There is a danger, in the current political climate, of reading anything and everything in the context of Brexit, but while Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall would still be just as gripping and just as powerful a work of fiction had the vote gone the other way on 23 June, 2016, the circumstances in which we now find ourselves give it added resonance. […] The book’s frequently foreshadowed denouement could have been its undoing, but Moss handles it with a subtle and highly effective mixture of precision and ambiguity.’ Scotsman

 ‘Over a staggeringly short distance […] Moss creates and manipulates an atmosphere of extreme tension. […] An uncanny prologue has indicated to the reader what might follow, but as the story edges towards its climax, Moss appears to collapse layers of history, to render skin and knife and rope identical across millennia. What provokes and perpetuates that capacity for harm, and what powers a mystical belief in its propitiatory value, remains eerily unclear, but no less urgent a concern for us than for our ghostly forebears.’ Alex Clark, Guardian

‘Moss’s finely balanced novel combines a strong sense of the natural world with a growing atmosphere of menace, interspersed with wry humour.’ Mail on Sunday

Moss expertly captures the hinterland of being an older teen who is not yet an adult, splicing Silvie’s encounters with shame, curiosity, desire and fear. […] There is a spring-taut tension embedded in the pages, which is built up slowly by a number of means. […] The novel gradually narrows its focus, and the ending becomes a bottleneck from which character and reader feel they can’t escape. […] Moss’s brevity is admirable, her language pristine. This story lingers, leaving its own ghosts, but with important lessons for the future of idealising the past.’ Sinéad Gleeson, Irish Times

Exquisite… There must have been a fierce urge for Moss to highlight the powerful symbolism that runs through the novel, to give the reader regular nudges in the ribs. It’s to her great credit that she resists any such didacticism, so that the book works subcutaneously, building towards an ending that is all the more horrifying for its unexpectedness… Moss has quietly, and it must be said remarkably quickly, been putting out some of the most interesting and carefully sculpted novels of recent years. […] Ghost Wall, her sixth in nine years, is her best novel yet, a slim book that can be read in an hour or two, but which leaves deep and lingering traces. At a time in which we are thinking more closely than ever about questions of nationalism and tradition, about walls and what they signify, this is an important novel that wears its timeliness lightly.’ Financial Times

‘”I can’t tell you where historical truth ends and historical fiction begins,” the novelist Sarah Moss has said. Over the course of five books, Moss has used this analogy to establish herself as one of our foremost literary forensic anthropologists, excavating that which has long been covered over or covered up before offering it, newly realised, to the light of day. […]  [Ghost Wall combines] the components of a thriller with a nuanced understanding of history, its fluctuating interpretations and its often traumatic effect on the present. […] Moss’s sensual writing recalls the late Helen Dunmore […] Moss reveals how, as Silvie’s power grows throughout the book, so Bill’s intentions become more extreme, his addiction to pre-history blurring the lines of past and present to maximum sinister effect, in a bold, spare study of internecine conflict.’ Catherine Taylor, New Statesman

‘Moss’s descriptions of the harsh and beautiful landscape are intensely immersive. […] [She] deftly examines the complexity of being a teenage girl. […] Reading Ghost Wall is an intense experience. Its claustrophobia and fearful build up leave you feeling close to tears. It is a masterful piece of writing that cements Moss’s reputation as one of our best novelists.’ Prospect  

Sarah Moss’s concise, claustrophobic sixth novel concerns the perils of family life […] Moss is very good at building empathy for Silvie through visceral, close-grained descriptions of nature […] devastating […] A sinister feeling hangs over Ghost Wall from the first chapter.’ Spectator

 ‘Outstanding… The realities of prehistoric living are viscerally evoked, but no grisly discomfort outstrips the feelings of terror, shame and contempt that surface, like a bog body, during this experiment. […] Grave and sophisticated, lit by flashes of wry humour, this is a drama that excavates our deepest instincts.’ Country Life

‘Subtly chilling… the brevity of Ghost Wall itself is deceptive about the novel’s scope. On one level a taut personal drama about a young girl and her abusive father, [it] is also a sharp political critique of the way distortions of the past ratify hatred and oppression in the present. […] Though Ghost Wall is pointed and timely about the toxic effects of nativism, misogyny and xenophobia, its impact is dramatic, not didactic. Silvie’s narrating voice is at once engagingly frank and disconcertingly vulnerable: even as we relish the rebellious urges she mostly holds in check, we come to share her habitual dread of their consequences. By entangling us so closely with Silvie’s individual plight, Moss leads us deftly towards more radical insights; in hoping for Silvie’s liberation, we are also fighting back against insidious narratives that seem all too powerful in our own world today.’ TLS

‘We live in a time of previously unthinkable technological marvels, and yet people from all parts of the ideological spectrum idealize what they see as a better, more simple past, and do things like eat paleo diets and take DNA tests to feel more connected to their long-ago ancestors. Sarah Moss’ slim new novel, Ghost Wall, is a fascinating, horrifying look into the way in which this type of fixation on the past threatens our present and our future. […] Moss skillfully builds an atmosphere of menace and peril, making it so that I both dreaded and couldn’t wait to turn every page, simultaneously afraid and compelled by what strange, inevitable violence lay ahead. (Kind of like waking up every day, circa now.) Spend an afternoon reading this marvel of a book, and then spend the next few weeks thinking about nothing else.’ Kristin Iversen, Nylon 

‘I’m a great fan of Sarah Moss’s work; she combines a poetic sensibility with great storytelling. […] [She] is brilliant on atmosphere.’ John Boyne

‘Moss is the author of a series of unsettling, beautifully strange novels and her latest, the story of abuse and sacrifice set during an experimental dig in the 1990s, is no exception.’ i paper

‘Unsettling… [it] immerses you in its dark terror and won’t let go. […] Captivating.’ Attitude

‘[A] slim, unnerving novel […] An intense and menacing book – the sort that’s best read in one sitting.’ Tatler

Powerful and unsettling […] The story grows increasingly ominous as the men build a replica of a ghost wall – a wall topped with skulls that a local tribe erected to ward off the invading Romans – before arriving at a terrifying, unforgettable ending. The novel’s highlight is Silvie, a perfectly calibrated consciousness that is energetic and lonely and prone to sharp and memorable observations […] This is a haunting, astonishing novel.’ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

‘Class and sexual tensions mount in a taut tale alive with intelligence and sensuousness.’ Sunday Times Books of the Year 2018

‘[Moss] shows us how hard it is to overcome the lure of a notionally simpler past – as presented in the narratives used to justify populist politics and dubious men’s movements. Her prose itself rejects the way such stories are built up […] The effect is tense, poetic, and compelling. […] [A] widely resonant novel.’ Toronto Star

‘Peppered with such exquisite lines as, “Exhaled breaths hang like spirits above each person’s head, slowly dissolving in the air,” Moss’ myth-like Ghost Wall isn’t merely a timely topical novel, but rather a timeless work of art.’ Minneapolis Star Tribune

‘This spare, thin novel promises riveting tension throughout.’ Huffington Post

Where do we begin with this remarkable, inventive novella, which does so much in so few pages? In Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss unpacks the toxic patriarchy all without leaving the confines of a teenage girl’s two-week trip to the remote northern edges of England […] Sylvie may be a smart, clear-voiced narrator – but you’ll still want to rescue her.’ Elena Nicolaou, Refinery29

‘A master class in compressing an unbearable sense of dread into a book that can be read in a single horrified (and admiring) hour.’ Sarah Perry, Wall Street Journal 

‘A thorny, thoroughly original novel about human beings' capacity for violence.’ Kirkus Reviews

 ‘Tackling issues such as misogyny and class divides, Moss packs a lot into her brief but powerful narrative.’ Booklist

I stayed up half the night gulping down Sarah Moss’s slim, unnervingly tense novelGhost Wall has subtlety, wit, and the force of a rock to the head: an instant classic.Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Ghost Wall grabs you by the guts and never lets go. Dazzling.’ Elizabeth Day, author of The Party

‘With stark and haunting prose that perfectly captures the harshness of the conditions the group is re-creatingGhost Wall explores what the past can teach us about the present and what the present can teach us about the past - especially when the two are not as far removed as we may like to believe.’ Kerry McHughShelf Awareness (starred review)

‘A short, sharp shock of a novel […] Moss is the author of several unsettling and intelligent novels about women constrained by historical circumstance, and this, narrated beautifully by a teenage girl, is one of her best yet.’ Metro

 

Praise for THE TIDAL ZONE (2016):

‘Proving she’s at the top of her game, Moss has written a new kind of state-of-the-nation novel, one that addresses big themes – mortality, parental love, 21st-century gender politics, even the NHS – all explored through the prism of one ordinary family, and within a narrative that’s not so much about events, but rather the void where action and answers should be. Without doubt, she’s one of the best British novelists writing today, and The Tidal Zone, which reads like the electric shock of a defibrillator, or the jolt of an EpiPen of adrenaline, confirms this.’ Lucy Scholes, Independent 

'[Moss] serves up a very recognisable, and at times very funny, slice of life... Adam’s father’s unconventional backstory provides intrigue, and the history of Coventry Cathedral’s rebuilding, told in parallel, lends momentum. Raised from the ruins, its reconstruction also echoes Adam’s efforts to create a new normality for his family, one that acknowledges, but is not dominated by, the possibility of sudden death. But it is Moss’s observations of life on the NHS front line – the sick buildings and goodness-free food; the underpaid, underappreciated and exhausted staff – that perhaps go deepest... With this expertly crafted examination of the shocks to which flesh is heir, and the institution that we expect to heal us, she deserves to come to the attention of many more judging panels – and readers' Observer 

'Moss [is] a writer of consistently clever works. She's one of Britain's most underrated writers... [The Tidal Zone] is another work full of the clever observations that made her earlier works so successful... There is no shortage of books that put a marriage under the microscope but none does it quite as Moss does... One of the things [she] does so well in her novels is to play with your expectations. Here, she shakes up the traditional mother-father roles... The Tidal Zone is about the stories we tell ourselves, whether about the roles we play in a family or about the impact ill health can have on how we see the past, present and future' Sunday Times

'Moss is superb on the eerie calm of the children’s ward... the novel’s clever poison goes to work, spreading and diffusing that localized parental anxiety until it pervades all aspects of the family’s life. How can you live, asks Moss, when life can be stopped at any moment, for no reason? Moreover, as a right-thinking citizen of a wealthy developed country in modern times, how can you claim exceptionalism for the hand life has dealt you? [...] There is succour, after all, in naming our fears, and Moss, you feel, sees clearly where we are just now' TLS

‘In her four novels to date Moss has proved herself to be a versatile writer… [The Tidal Zone] is different again, a contemporary story about a family whose ordinary lives are tipped into freefall when eldest daughter Miriam collapses one day at school. Granta is tipping this as her breakout novel and I do hope so – she deserves to be much better known’ Editor’s Choice, Bookseller

'[A] powerful account of private fears in the face of public expectations and modern parenthood confronting gender politics... Animated by wry intelligence yet comparable to a Dutch painting of a domestic interior in its evocation of turmoil beneath stillness, Sarah Moss's fifth novel reprises her exploration of mortal and moral paradoxes. Although bristling iwth contemporary teenage attitude, this coming-of-age story is about grown-ups, for grown-ups' Country Life

'Affecting... the immensely talented Sarah Moss' The Tidal Zone opens with a chapter tracking the journey from a foetus to 15-year-old teenager, collapsed, not breathing, in the school playground (in just seven pages - take note Terrence Malick)... [It] turns out Moss can maintain that seismic scale and depth throughout... [she] writes soulful, ambitious prose, which takes note of the familiar and mundane but mostly dwells on a bigger, deeper picture. The nature of familial love, the grip of fear imposed by a seriously ill child, the guilt of yearning for escape; all are examined with intelligence and emotional charge. And don't be tempted to gloss over the chapters about church architecture... Rather like Spence's minimal modernism, they demonstrate perfectly that there is beauty in what looks at first like a cold, unyielding facade' Big Issue  

 

Praise for SIGNS FOR LOST CHILDREN (2015):

'Moss vividly brings to life [her characters'] contrasting experiences in this nuanced study of lives constricted or liberated by circumstance' Best Books of 2015, Financial Times 

'Astute... the richness of Moss's work is astonishing. Few writers demonstrate such quietly magisterial command of the rocky territories of both the heart and the mind' Lucy Scholes, Independent 

'Compelling... A quietly devastating portrait of crumbling identities, alienation and the role of women in the 1800s... It seems to me, with this book, that it's no longer sufficient to call what Moss is doing "novel-writing"... [it is] an ongoing interrogation of the role of women within the family, and in the wider world, and it's a broader, knottier enterprise than the word "novel" allows. A project, perhaps you could call it, of the lifelong variety. An undertaking' Guardian

'Moss is one of our most underrated writers... [Signs For Lost Children is] full of humanity, historical insight and beautiful writing' The Times

'[Moss's] ability to capture her female characters' intertwined emotional and intellectual lives, from their ambivalence about motherhood to their thoughts on innocence and madness, is a rare skill' TLS

'[A] rich and intricate novel' Sunday Times

‘[A] wonderful, subtle novel… Moss charts Tom and Ally’s changing perspectives with precise, poetic language’ Sunday Express

 

Praise for BODIES OF LIGHT (2014): 

'A powerful polemic... The writing is concise and powerful; colour coming from Moss's language. The story ends with you wanting more' Independent on Sunday

'Thought-provoking and illuminating... this meticulously researched novel offers an intriguing portrait of Victorian society' Daily Mail

'A poignant, well-written tale of a woman's attempts to escape the powerful chains of family' Sunday Times

'Wise and tender... Moss's style is measured and refined. A very accomplished piece of work' Financial Times

 

Praise for NAMES FOR THE SEA - Strangers in Iceland (2012):

'Names For The Sea: Strangers In Iceland is a beautifully written and acutely observed examination of being an útlendingur - a foreigner. A stranger in a strange land, Moss grapples with new foods, customs and landscapes that are both oddly familiar and wildly alien in this absorbing memoir' Financial Times

 

Praise for NIGHT WAKING (2011):

'Night Waking is a brilliantly observed comedy of 21st-century manners. It's also a tightly plotted mystery that keeps the reader wondering, and hoping, until the final page' Financial Times

'[Moss] continues to thread historical research into her fiction in a way that is fresh and illuminating' Guardian

 

Praise for COLD EARTH (2009):

'One of the most powerful and gripping debut novels I have ever read' Scarlett Thomas

'Every element of the novel is distilled for purity of purpose' The Times

'Moss is such a master at evoking the suspense of both the dread and the anticipation of this situation that readers will be tempted to turn to the end of the book to relieve anxieties. Try to control yourself, if only for the sake of appreciating her technique' Guardian

Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2018

Granta Books

Teenage Silvie and her parents are living in a hut in Northumberland as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is a difficult man, obsessed with imagining and enacting the harshness of Iron Age life. Haunting Silvie's narrative is the story of a bog girl, a young woman sacrificed by those closest to her, and the landscape both keeps and reveals the secrets of past violence and ritual as the summer builds to its harrowing climax.

2016

Granta

Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed. In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn't dare to look, and the result is riveting - unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful. The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery. It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage. It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the work-life juggle, and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers. It confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction and a writer of luminous intelligence.

2015

Granta

Only weeks into their marriage a young couple embark on a six-month period of separation. Tom Cavendish goes to Japan to build lighthouses and his wife Ally, Doctor Moberley-Cavendish, stays and works at the Truro asylum. As Ally plunges into the institutional politics of mental health, Tom navigates the social and professional nuances of late 19th century Japan. With her unique blend of emotional insight and intellectual profundity, Sarah Moss builds a novel in two parts from Falmouth to Tokyo, two maps of absence; from Manchester to Kyoto, two distinct but conjoined portraits of loneliness and determination. An exquisite continuation of the story of Bodies of Light, Signs for Lost Children will amaze Sarah Moss's many fans.

2014

Granta

Bodies of Light is a deeply poignant tale of a psychologically tumultuous nineteenth century upbringing set in the atmospheric world of Pre-Raphaelitism and the early suffrage movement. Ally (older sister of May in Night Waking), is intelligent, studious and engaged in an eternal - and losing - battle to gain her mother's approval and affection. Her mother, Elizabeth, is a religious zealot, keener on feeding the poor and saving prostitutes than on embracing the challenges of motherhood. Even when Ally wins a scholarship and is accepted as one of the first female students to read medicine in London, it still doesn't seem good enough. The first in a two-book sequence, Bodies of Light will propel Sarah Moss into the upper echelons of British novelists. It is a triumphant piece of historical fiction and a profoundly moving master class in characterisation.

2011

Granta

Anna and her husband Giles have decided to decamp with their two boys, Raphael and Moth, to Colsay, a deserted island south of the inner Hebrides that belongs to Giles’s family. They want to ‘get away from it all’ and fix one of the cottages so they can rent it out to like-minded tourists. Anna, who is an academic, also wants to finish her book, while Giles, an ornithologist, is busy observing puffins. The idyll is rather rudely disrupted by the children’s sleeping patterns and the discovery of a small dead body buried in the garden. A glorious exploration of modern motherhood, acerbic, funny and deeply thought-provoking.

2009

Granta Books

Facing a Greenland winter for which they are hopelessly ill-equipped, knowing that their missives may never reach their loved ones, six archaeologists write their final letters home. In this exceptional and haunting first novel, Moss weaves a rich tapestry of personal narratives, history, ghost stories, love stories, stories of grief and naked survival.

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2012

Granta

In 2009, feeling bored of her middle class life with two children and a respectable job in a small English town, Sarah applied for and got a job at the university of Reykyavik. It turned out to be a tumultuous time for Iceland: the day she accepted, the Icelandic economy crashed and her future salary went through the floor. Halfway through her stay, Eyjafjallajokull erupted.

Most of the travel books about Iceland are written by men discovering their inner Viking. Sarah, instead, lived and worked in Reykyavik fo a year. She provides an enchanting memoir of her day to day existince as a stranger in a strange land.

2009

Reaktion

Redolent of everything sensual and hedonistic, chocolate is adored around the world, and has been since the Spanish first encountered cocoa beans in South America in the sixteenth century. This short book sheds an historicised and engaging light on this universal obsession. With Alexander Badenoch.

2009

BlueBridge

This ambitious book is primarily a literary historical examination of the myth and reality of Antarctica and the Arctic from the point of view of European settlers and explorers, including the history of Norse settlements in Greenland; the expeditions of Parry, Nansen, Franklin and others; and Arctic myth and imagery in literature from the likes of Donne, Mary Shelley and Lewis Carroll.

2006

Signal Books

A thorough and thought-provoking examination of the most influential, popular and intriguing journeys into the eternal ice.