Green Books £12.95
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, By Elisabeth Tova Bailey
How a gastropod helped a writer cope with illness
Sunday 31 October 2010
Reviewed by Piers Moore Ede
When the writer Elisabeth Bailey falls ill with a mysterious virus, she finds herself confined to bed, her life shattered. As her illness extends from months to years, friends bring her gifts to keep her amused and it is one of these, a common snail, which offers the inspiration for this remarkable book.
Intrigued by the snail's world, Bailey becomes an obsessive observer of the tiny creature in its glass terrarium, a few feet from her bed. She feeds it purple violets and portobello mushrooms and, lying awake in the dark, finds herself strangely pleased by "the comforting sound of the snail's minuscule munching".
On one level this is the simple story of a woman lying in bed watching a snail; on another, some of the most profound observation of the natural world. By studying its movements, eating habits and breeding patterns, Bailey discovers a method of channelling her ennui and an extraordinary metaphor for her own illness. Discovering the snail's ability to hibernate in its shell for several years in times of trouble, she dreams of a time when humans could do the same, and "simply go dormant while the scientific world went about its snail-paced research". And the result: this slim, thoughtful book is a miniature masterpiece.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 teaser trailer sees Katniss lead rebellion against the Capitol
The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace