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Review: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

October 19, 2010

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck by a debilitating illness that left her bedridden, a friend of hers brought her a pot of wild field violets, and,thinking that Elisabeth might enjoy it,  impulsively placed a snail on the soil.  At first, Elisabeth wondered why her friend would possibly think she might enjoy a snail, but quickly discovered that she did.  Elisabeth became fascinated with every aspect of the snail’s life and spent hours watching her snail.  She felt panicked when she didn’t see it and felt comfort when she did.

Elisabeth recounts her time with the snail in her lovely, introspective memoir The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.  This is a quiet little book, but I found it delightful.   Elisabeth was completely bedridden, but didn’t feel sorry for herself; instead she found pleasure in small things, like her snail and getting to leave her bed for a doctor’s appointment.  She read what she could on snails and includes some of the information in this book.  Elisabeth actually became the first person to record observations of a snail tending its eggs.  I have to tell you that I’m the type of person who doesn’t like anything creepy crawly, so I tend to stay away from snails, but reading this little gem of a book made me want to get a pet snail.  There are a few gorgeous drawings by Kathy Bray throughout the book that enhanced the experience for me.  If you love thoughtful memoirs, you won’t want to miss this book!

Review copy provided by Algonquin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
48 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010 5:55 am

    Thanks for the review…I have been wanting to read this.

    Have a great day.

  2. October 19, 2010 6:04 am

    Gotta say, this is the most interesting book title I’ve seen in awhile!

  3. October 19, 2010 6:35 am

    This book is very high on my list. In fact it is sitting at the top of my SIBA pile, and I probably would have read it already were it not my focus on the OKRA Challenge right now. I can’t wait.

  4. October 19, 2010 6:44 am

    Well it’s an Algonquin book so I shouldn’t be surprised but I admit that I wouldn’t have picked this one up on my own. You’ve made me want to read it.

  5. October 19, 2010 7:37 am

    I hate creepy crawlies! I have this queasy feeling each time I see one. This book, however, sounds good!

  6. October 19, 2010 7:45 am

    I first heard about the book on Books On The Nightstand podcast and was intrigued. Now your review has me adding it to my TBR list. I’m not a big fan of insects (although I realize they are important in our world) so it’s great to see you refer to the book as a gem.

    • October 19, 2010 1:05 pm

      I’m glad you mentioned Books On The Nightstand. I didn’t know about the podcasts and I’m heading over there now.

  7. October 19, 2010 8:11 am

    I had this book in my hands just the other day, then put it down and bought the new Michael Cunningham. I must go back and get it!

  8. October 19, 2010 8:26 am

    I have a friend who has a glass tank full of African snails which are quite big. I can’t say they have ever appealed to me, but this books sounds really intriguing. I imagine it isn’t just about the snail, but includes her road to recovery too.

  9. October 19, 2010 8:32 am

    I like your description of this as a “thoughtful” memoir – that’s what I enjoy, a personal story, not a sensational one. Thanks for the review, Kathy!

  10. October 19, 2010 9:54 am

    I’m not sure I would have given this book a second look, but you make it sound completely delightful! I’ll be on the watch for it now. Thanks for the great review Kathy!

  11. October 19, 2010 9:56 am

    This is a book that I really wanted to get, but didn’t. It sounds like it’s such an interesting story and though it’s quiet, I love the thought of reading her observations on the snail. It’s also pretty cool that she got to watch it tending it’s eggs. Great review on this one, Kathy! It sounds like such a wonderful book. I am glad you liked it!

  12. October 19, 2010 9:58 am

    Actually this sounds great! I love the title, but probably would not have thought to pick it up. How wonderful that a little slimy thing could give so much to someone!

  13. October 19, 2010 10:02 am

    I’m not a big creepy, crawly fan myself but there is something fascinating about snails. I think I’ll have to look into this title (oh, and what a great title it is). Thanks for the recommendation.

  14. October 19, 2010 10:10 am

    This sounded like a sweet book, then when I read that it was a memoir, that made it something else. It now sounds like one I’d love to read. Thanks for reviewing it since I probably wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise.

  15. October 19, 2010 10:44 am

    This sounds so good. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. It sounds lovely.

  16. October 19, 2010 10:53 am

    Hello! Now I can easily leave comments on your blog. I heart WordPress! =)

    Great review. I haven’t heard of this book, but your review has piqued my interest. It’s amazing how “little things” can really help people when they need it the most.


  17. Erin permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:13 am

    What a great title. This book sounds like a hidden gem. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  18. October 19, 2010 11:22 am

    Wow. This sounds like a little treasure of a book!

  19. October 19, 2010 11:40 am

    It sounds beautiful and the cover gives me a peaceful feeling. 🙂 Great review!

  20. jendevourerofbooks permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:41 am

    I have a copy of this and I can’t wait to read it!

  21. October 19, 2010 11:49 am

    How thoughtful of Ms. Bailey’s friend to add this snail as a gift. It gave her something to concentrate on besides her illness. And, she in turn shared her experience with us. I have to read this one.

  22. October 19, 2010 1:04 pm

    Ok, I’m intrigued. I don’t mind bugs. Actually I like most of them. I hadn’t heard of this book yet but it sounds like a winner for me.

  23. October 19, 2010 1:13 pm

    I’ve always loved snails, so I have considered reading this book, but wasn’t sure if it would be boring. I’m glad it was a good read. I still remember this beautiful snail I found at my grandparents house when I was in junior high. It had a brilliant pea green shell and a delicate white body that was see through. I remember sitting in my grandparents driveway and watching it for at least a half hour. I haven’t seen anything like it since.

  24. October 19, 2010 1:21 pm

    What an intriguing book! This is why I love memoirs.

  25. October 19, 2010 1:40 pm

    This book sounds interesting, thanks to your review, thanks!

  26. October 19, 2010 2:08 pm

    If you are like me, hating creepy crawly things, and still wanted a snail after this one, well then it must be good

  27. October 19, 2010 2:58 pm

    Not in a million years would this have been a book I would have picked up on my own but you make it sound so interesting I may not be able to stop myself. Thanks for the wonderful review.

  28. October 19, 2010 3:48 pm

    Loved your review, Kathy! I think I will adore this book and have just added to my list with a star after its title.

  29. October 19, 2010 4:02 pm

    I also do not like the creepy crawly stuff but if you say its good… then it should be. Thank you for this review.

  30. October 19, 2010 4:22 pm

    I might have been able to resist this title–might–if you hadn’t liked it and included the disclaimer about creepy-crawlies. Now I must read it!

  31. October 19, 2010 5:01 pm

    I am beginning to learn about more and more people with pet snails…a very thoughtful review…I want to know if she is ok now…

  32. October 19, 2010 5:15 pm

    Sounds like a quiet, moving sort of story — and that title is definitely attention-grabbing!

  33. October 19, 2010 7:58 pm

    Lovely review, Kathy. My daughter had a pet snail for over a year, “Maddie”. 🙂

  34. October 19, 2010 8:40 pm

    I like quiet, little books…they’re the ones that stick with you! 😀

  35. October 19, 2010 9:55 pm

    I just heard about this book on a podcast recently, and found it interesting. Though I doubt I will ever read it – I have seen too many snails growing up that I find them terrifying!

  36. October 20, 2010 10:35 am

    I’m not sure about the book, but the title is awesome!

  37. October 20, 2010 1:49 pm

    There’s something about this one that makes it sound interesting, though I probably wouldn’t have given it another thought if I’d passed by it in the store.

  38. stilettostorytime permalink
    October 20, 2010 2:57 pm

    This sounds really interesting…I have seen the cover but never knew the story behind it. Putting it on the TBR list!

  39. October 20, 2010 7:54 pm

    What a wonderful review you wrote. It sounds just wonderful. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to things like snails but this sounds charming. And how neat that she ended up being on the first people to observe the snail tending its eggs!

  40. October 20, 2010 8:15 pm

    Wow… sounds interesting!! Definitely good if it can make you want a pet snail after reading it!

  41. October 20, 2010 8:29 pm

    I love memoirs and this one sounds very good. Thanks Kathy

  42. givingreadingachance permalink
    October 21, 2010 5:27 am

    I hate creepy crawly things too! But I think I wll like this memoir, I love the title, it is so unique 🙂

  43. October 21, 2010 10:08 am

    Even the title of this is intriguing!

  44. October 22, 2010 7:57 pm

    i love reading memoirs! this sounds like something i would really love. definitely adding it to my wish list.

  45. October 24, 2010 9:57 am

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Really liked the cover and what an interesting premise.

  46. October 24, 2010 11:57 am

    Well I’m really late commenting here but have to say it looks like a very interesting book. I’ve never read anything about snails!

  47. October 24, 2010 8:01 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful memoir.

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