Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey... A Review


Is it a memoir or a beautiful piece of nature writing? It is both, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about a Neohelix albolabris, the common woodland snail, and encourage you to pick this book up and escape into a world you may never have known to exist...

Elisabeth Tova Bailey found herself suffering from a debilitating unknown illness that left her with severe neurological symptoms and virtually bedridden all the time. As her illness progressed, and as she had to move out of her farmhouse and to a place where she could receive the care she needed, she felt herself more and more isolated from the outside world. One day a friend brought her a small pot of flowers and while walking through the woods spotted the perfect accessory to her gift- a small snail.

"I found a snail in the woods. I brought it back and it's right here beneath the violets."

"You did? Why did you bring it it?"

"I don't know. I thought you might enjoy it."

"Is it alive?"

She picked up the brown acorn-sized shell and looked at it.

"I think it is."

Why, I wondered, would I enjoy a snail? What on earth would I do with it? I couldn't get out of bed to return it to the woods. It was not much of interest, and if it was alive, the responsibility-- especially for a snail, something so uncalled for-- was overwhelming.

My friend hugged me, said goodbye, and drove off.

As the snail quietly came to life, and the hours of Elisabeth's isolation grew, a certain curiosity took over Elisabeth and she began to research the genealogy & life of her snail... The snail became the perfect companion to the hours Elisabeth spent in her own flowerpot, and she found an amazing similarity to her own life and that of the snail...

"The life of a snail is as full of tasty food, comfortable beds of sorts, and a mix of pleasant and not-so-pleasant adventures as that of anyone I know."

The story itself is sprinkled with snail lore, poetry and ancient & current studies. It is a fascinating glimpse into nature that is simply & beautifully written. It is a quiet story, filled with wonder. The story is a slim 170 pages from start to epilogue, with beautiful soft pencil drawings by Kathy Bray, and could be easily finished in one sitting. But to really enjoy it, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating should be slowly sipped like a delicious elixir...

Beautiful prose with a wonderful dash of nature writing that challenges us to slow down and observe the smaller world around us. In this wonderful observation of nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey weaves her story with that of the common woodland snail, to teach us that life is worthwhile no matter how large, or small, your shell is... this would make a wonderful gift for any nature lover, or for someone recovering from an illness.

6 comments:

bashtree said...

thanks for this recommendation! I plan to savor it over one of the upcoming snowy weekends here in the Rockies.

Suzanne said...

Hi Bashtree!
You will definitely will enjoy it! I wish I could have enjoyed it on a beautiful snowy landscape like the Rockies!

carla said...

This sounds cool, i passed it on to some friends too.
Now i wonder what a snail eats, and how to care for one.

Suzanne said...

Hi Carla,
Yes, this book is just so interesting! Before the author researched what her snail actually ate, she found these uniform holes in some of her paper. And there was a hiccup before she found exactly what was the perfect food. You'll never look at snails the same way! :-)

Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree said...

This is the second good review I've seen for this book. I enjoy nature writing so I'll have to add this one to my list.

Suzanne said...

Hi Leslie,
This is such a gem of a book. If you enjoy nature writing, you should enjoy this book!

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