Snails, Slime and S-lovely!

Thank heavens for pretty covers and enticing blurbs, otherwise I would never have picked up this delightful book, as I am no fan of slimey creatures. This simple review by Toni Jordan on the cover also attracted me, “Put away the laptop and the phone. Treat yourself to a moment of inner stillnes, courtesy of this remarkable book.” She hits the nail perfectly on the head when she mentions ‘stillness’ as I found this book gentle and ‘peaceful.’  It tells the story of a snail, plain and simple.

Elisabeth Tova Bailey is suffering from a long-term debilitating disease which leaves her with no energy, bedridden.  A visiting friend brings her a potted violet plant one day with a snail hiding under one of the leaves.  The snail stays and becomes almost a friend as Elisabeth becomes more and more intrugued and attached to him-her (I learnt that snails are hermaphrodites) and she organises to have a terrarium in the bedroom for the snail with moss, lichen, bracken and soil from the woods nearby.

“While the snail and I each had our own routines, we alos appreciated adventures.  When a visiting friend brought something to add to the terrarium, the snail was always intrugued… a piece of bark or a slice of cucmber, the snails received the gift with tentacles aquiver.  After a careful and thorough examination, it tasted anything that may be edible.”

The snail also had a penchant for paper, as discovered by increasing amounts of tiny square holes in envelopes and pieces of paper left on the bedside table:

“As each successive morning arrived, so did more holes.  Their square shape continued to perplex me.  Friends were surprised and amused to receive postcards with an arrow pointing at a hole and my scrawled note ‘Eaten by my snail’.”

Painting of the author

As the book progresses, you find yourself wanting to know what the snail is up to next and s/he became a cute kitten in my eyes and not one of the slimy ugly creature that I have to avoid stepping on each morning as I trudge to the washing line.  The book is obviously a true account and behind the daily sags of the snail’s life, we obviously have a very sick woman telling the tale.  She doesn’t talk about her illness nor the family and friends who visit her but you know that they and the disease exist.  She does make reference to it toward the end but only in comparison to the snail’s life:

“The snail and I had been fellow captives… I tried to make my life livable within a few rooms of my house.  Though I was home, I was still not free from the boundaries of my illness.  I thought of the terrarium’s limited space and how the snail had seemed contect as it ate, explored and fulfilled a life cycle.  This gave me hope that perhaps I, too, could still fulfil my dreams, even if they were changed dreams.”

This book is interspersed with quotes from historical and scientific documents and essays.  This adds to the story in most parts (some I admit to skimming through a little) as it gives a much greater insight into not only a snail’s life but also of the author, as you see how intelligent and well-read she is and her total fascination with biophilia, who she dedicates the book to. 

Biophilia literally means “love of life or living systems.” (Wikipedia quote.)

I really wanted to pop a photo of our garden snails on here but when I went to look for some, camera at the ready, all the little blighters were hiding.  I’ve been looking for them (one would do!) for days but no sign.  Snails must be painfully camera shy!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Book Whisperer
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 23:04:09

    I loved this book! I haven’t reviewed it yet but I found it so beautiful and gentle. I will be doing an interview with the author soon too (this book was sent to me for review and they asked if I wanted to interview her so that should be interesting). Glad you enjoyed too 🙂


    • BryOak
      May 02, 2011 @ 12:24:12

      I am so jeanous that you get to interview the author! I loved this book. I look forward to reading both your review and your interview with her, you lucky thing!!


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