Wednesday 28 March 2012

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

How does one do justice to a small book about snails and illness?

I can already hear the many yawns from here. And I can see your fingers hovering over the mouse ready to click and move on.

But please dont.

Stay a while, slow down and take a moment to reflect on those smaller and less fortunate than us.

Bailey was struck down 20 years ago by a mysterious, life-threatening illness. She has been bed-ridden for long stretches of time, completely immobile and therefore cut off from the world.

In such a situation I defy anyone to not become overwhelmed by futility.
However a chance arrival in her bedroom changed Bailey's life. A visitor brought her a pot of violets from the nearby forest...and a snail.

During the night, Bailey was disturbed by an unusual sound. She could hear the snail eating.
"The tiny, intimate sound of the snail's eating gave me a distinct feeling of companionship and shared space." (chapter 2)

So begins a beautiful tale of co-existence and understanding.

Bailey uses examples from poetry, literature and science to bring forth the nature of her snail. Each little nugget is revealed with care and circumspection. Watching her snail, Bailey comes to terms with her own illness.

"If life mattered to the snail and the snail mattered to me, it meant something in my life mattered, so I kept on." (chapter 20)

This is a book that deserves to be read slowly, with pleasure.


  1. I love the sound of the title, if this comes my way at the library I will definitely pick it up :)

  2. I remember reading the newspaper reviews of this book when it came out. I've wanted to read it since. Wonderful to hear another recommendation.

    1. This is a book that I was slow to pick up but reluctant to put down once I started it. What a joyful, entertaining, and informative little package of a book!


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.