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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

Topics: Disease

Published: Workman eBooks on Aug 24, 2010
ISBN: 9781616200244
List price: $15.95
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This is a charming little book that is just as much about a human as it is about a snail. Bailey has a medical condition that renders her unable to sit up or move very much for long stretches of time (months. During one of those relapses, one of her caretakers cheerfully uprooted some violets from the woods outside the little house where she was staying and plopped a small snail under them and brought them in to cheer the invalid's bedside. Little did this person know that she started a love affair of a lifetime, while at the same time giving perspective, hope, and companionship to the frustrated and forlorn Bailey. Full of scientific detail (about snails) and psychological observations (about humans), this simple tale has endless layers and resonant insights that make it far more than the sum of its pages.read more
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I'm so, so grateful to whoever recommended this book. It's not the kind of thing I would typically pick up, but I'm very glad I did (and I've already loaned it out because I couldn't not share it with others). Briefly, the story is a memoir about the author's illness and isolation during her recovery, and the observations she makes on a wild snail that her caretaker brings in on a pot of plants. She watches the snail, bonds with it through her own slow-paced existence, and presents a multitude of fascinating facts about snails -- most of which she learned during her illness, while reading a tome about mollusks to better understand her slimy companion.Although short, the book is delightful, lovely, informative, and poignant. I also find myself fascinated by the complexity of something so easily taken for granted as snails! Have I ever considered the physiology and behavior of snails before? Absolutely not, until this book. And what truthful observations on the human condition and the pace of modern life.This book is not to be missed. Even if you don't normally read these sorts of things, this little volume is well worth your time.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
How many books have you read with a Library of Congress classification of “Snails as pets”??The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- my first :) -- is partly a memoir of 34-year-old Elisabeth Tova Bailey being flat-out bedridden during the first year of a chronic illness that would persist for decades. But it’s mostly a gentle scientific exploration of the common land snail, which a friend plucks from the New England woods and places in a pot of violets at Bailey’s bedside. It brings her comfort and immeasurable diversion, and the information about snails that she excerpts from science, literature and poetry bring the same to the reader.read more
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The author of this very short memoir contracts an autoimmune disease while in Europe on assignment. The severity of it leaves her bedridden for years and sometime during the early stages of the disease a friend brings her a potted violet plant to which a common garden snail (Neohelix albolabris) has attached itself. Slowly the snail emerges from the shell and the author begins to examine how it carries on its daily activity. She has compiled her journal entries from this time of her life into this brief memoir. I cannot do justice to the prosaic nature of this scientific account other than to say that I was charmed from beginning to end. There is no whining over the fact that she contracted a devastating illness, actually very little information about the illness at all until the last couple of pages of the book. Its discourse is predominantly about the way the snail conducts its life and how we might emulate some of its characteristics. The book is absolutely loaded with quotable passages, framed around the life of the snail. Since the author could barely move in her bed, she had plenty of opportunity to study the snail (which she chose not to name) and its habits. What she learned from the snail could, well, fill a book.”It was in Tony Cook’s chapter in ‘The Biology of Terrestrial Molluscs,’ titled ‘Behavioural Ecology,’ that I found the sentence that best expresses a snail’s way of life: ‘The right thing to do is to do nothing, the place to do it is in a place of concealment and the time to do it is as often as possible.’””Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties…Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.”Beautifully written, full of insight and thoughtful contemplation on what a quiet solitary life can mean I found this memoir to be poignant and charming. Highly recommendedread more
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This is a wonderful, strange, intimate book. The author describes her growing relationship with her only constant companion, a snail, during a long convalescence from a mysterious ailment. Along the way, we learn about her, snails and the country of illness. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are wonderful as is the extensive bibliography.read more
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This is a short meditation on disease, being alone, and the power of even a small uncommuncative creature to give companionship and some measure of meaning to life. The author is suffering from an illness that causes her to have to lie flat all day long. For most of the day she is alone in a small apartment, although caregivers come to assist her, but we don't learn much about them or their role in her life. Her main focus is on a small woods snail which a friend brought in to her room in with a potted violet plants, both taken from the nearby woods. She observes the activities of the snail and describes them for us. Occasionally, she bemoans her situation and necessary removal from society. She presents some of her research into snails.It doesn't sound like much, but I greatly enjoyed the read. It is easily accomplished in a lazy afternoon.read more
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Pleasant light read, but for some reason didn't grab me. I guess I was expecting some sort of larger payoff than the book delivered. Will encourage many to keep a snail or an insect in a terrarium though and learn to watch more closely.read more
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This is a charming little book that is just as much about a human as it is about a snail. Bailey has a medical condition that renders her unable to sit up or move very much for long stretches of time (months. During one of those relapses, one of her caretakers cheerfully uprooted some violets from the woods outside the little house where she was staying and plopped a small snail under them and brought them in to cheer the invalid's bedside. Little did this person know that she started a love affair of a lifetime, while at the same time giving perspective, hope, and companionship to the frustrated and forlorn Bailey. Full of scientific detail (about snails) and psychological observations (about humans), this simple tale has endless layers and resonant insights that make it far more than the sum of its pages.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I'm so, so grateful to whoever recommended this book. It's not the kind of thing I would typically pick up, but I'm very glad I did (and I've already loaned it out because I couldn't not share it with others). Briefly, the story is a memoir about the author's illness and isolation during her recovery, and the observations she makes on a wild snail that her caretaker brings in on a pot of plants. She watches the snail, bonds with it through her own slow-paced existence, and presents a multitude of fascinating facts about snails -- most of which she learned during her illness, while reading a tome about mollusks to better understand her slimy companion.Although short, the book is delightful, lovely, informative, and poignant. I also find myself fascinated by the complexity of something so easily taken for granted as snails! Have I ever considered the physiology and behavior of snails before? Absolutely not, until this book. And what truthful observations on the human condition and the pace of modern life.This book is not to be missed. Even if you don't normally read these sorts of things, this little volume is well worth your time.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I loved this book so much that I am going to buy a copy for myself. It made me cry because it was so beautiful and touching. I stopped a few times in the middle of reading to imagine myself watching "the snail" live it's life. " The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" has got me thinking about owning a pet snail but then I think about it and realize a snail deserve to be free just like me.read more
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How many books have you read with a Library of Congress classification of “Snails as pets”??The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- my first :) -- is partly a memoir of 34-year-old Elisabeth Tova Bailey being flat-out bedridden during the first year of a chronic illness that would persist for decades. But it’s mostly a gentle scientific exploration of the common land snail, which a friend plucks from the New England woods and places in a pot of violets at Bailey’s bedside. It brings her comfort and immeasurable diversion, and the information about snails that she excerpts from science, literature and poetry bring the same to the reader.read more
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Elisabeth Bailey was stricken with a mysterious, unnamed virus while traveling. The virus basically rendered her bedridden for years, with ups and downs, recoveries and relapses along the way. This book is the story of one of her bedridden years in which she was given a pet snail and spent much of her waking time observing it. You'll care about this snail more than you ever thought you would and you'll learn many interesting facts about snails in this book. For instance, did you know that when mating some snail species shoot love darts at each other? And that snails have thousands of teeth? And that snails can regrow parts of their shells if they are damaged? But this is more than a book about snails. It's also a book about the isolation often felt by sufferers of chronic illness and about how Elisabeth dealt with a solitary life. When her disease made it impossible for her to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time, impossible to physically hold up a book or concentrate on the story, she found great comfort in the snail slowly living its life by her side. The snail was there for her when her friends couldn't make the long trip out to see her.read more
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey was laid low by a mystery virus for years, so debilitated that it was a major undertaking to leave her bed, and even to sit up or turn over was a big deal. She couldn’t play with her dog, and even the most welcome of visitors left her feeling exhausted. While she was in this state of enforced passivity, a friend brought her a gift of a tiny snail she had found in the woods. The author initially responded unenthusiastically, but as time passed she found that the snail provided not only a distraction during her long stretches of solitude, but also a deeply comforting companionship.The story is beautifully told. As the relationship with the snail develops, we follow the illness’s progress, share the writer’s reflections on her subjective experience of time, are treated to snail-related gleanings from literary greats and not-so-greats (Oliver Goldsmith, Kobayashi Issa, Elizabeth Bishop, Rainer Maria Rilke, Patricia Cornwall – the list goes on), and learn fascinating information about the anatomy, habits, defences and mating behaviour of snails, some observed directly by Ms Bailey and much garnered from the reference books that took up a lot of her bed time.The book is charming, but it’s also much more. What emerges is a profound sense of respect for living things and for the connectedness between them. The chapter epigraphs include a number of marvellous haiku. There’s something haiku-like about the book as a whole: where the tiny poems capture a moment, this book, really an extended personal essay, captures a much more substantial swathe of time, but because of the mental state induced by the author’s illness it has a haiku-ish sense of quiet discovery.It’s generally done without straining for effect, without heavily emotive language or – I realised about half way through – any whiff of religiosity. Richard Dawkins would be delighted. I was.read more
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s latest work, “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” has a title that naturally intrigues. Is this book really about snails? And if so, how interesting or exciting can that be? Is reading this book going to be like watching paint dry or grass grow? And can you actually hear a wild snail eating? The answer to the last question is “yes”, but don’t leave it at that. This book is worth your time: you will very likely read it in one sitting.Bailey finds herself in a situation of enforced inactivity. It is the reader’s good fortune that she uses her time to share her observations of Neohelix albolabris, the White-lipped forest snail. Bailey displays a great insight into her own situation. She identifies with her snail: they are both homebound; both prisoners; both displaced from their usual familiar environment. Bailey’s isolation is kept at bay by her snail (as hard as this may be to believe!). We are treated to quite a different perspective of the world. This book is full of easily-digestible information about snails and delightful quotes and anecdotes about snails from various literary sources. And, as unlikely as it may seem, there is also philosophy, humour and sex. This book is truly a pleasure to read. And after reading it, you may well hesitate as your hand reaches for the snail pellets, next time you go into the garden.read more
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A remarkable little book about a little critter and its relationship to a highly sensitive woman. Reminiscent of Throreau, no less.read more
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While bedridden, with a mysterious illness, the author of this book was given a pot of violets and a little snail that her friend had found while digging up the violets in the woods. With nothing else that she could do, Elisabeth spent time observing the snail and soon had someone create a terrarium for it as a more proper home.This book is well written and filled with quotes from other sources about snails. Who knew so much study had been dedicated to snails? It also is filled with Elisabeth's musings about her illness as she misses the normal active life she used to lead.Did you know that there are such things as microscopic snails that are blown about in the air? It kind of creeps me out that we could be breathing in snails! Which also brings to mind the "Inside Ralphy" episode of "The Magic School Bus". I was touched by the fact that the presence of a snail to watch helped Elisabeth to get through a year of her debilitating illness. She shares her thoughts and her later research on snails in an interesting, lyrical book.read more
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I read about this book on the blog ReadAllDay, and the topic intrigued me. A woman who is bedridden with a serious illness watches a snail living in a plant by her bedside. After seeing several good reviews on your threads, I picked it up at the library. Bailey has written a slow, gentle book. She writes only briefly about the illness that makes turning from one side to the other a chore. More time is spent on her observations of the snail who shares her days and nights, and her research about snails in general. The slow pace of the snail matches her energy levels and becomes the focus of her attention. The book made me count my blessing while also making me feel the need to slow down of my own accord so that I don't miss the sound of a wild snail eating.read more
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Occasionally interesting bits about snails and a nice idea, but trite overall.read more
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This slim but charming volume really is about snails, which turn out to be remarkably interesting beasties. (I used to loathe them until one day I saw one sitting on top of my compost bin, chomping happily on a fresh leaf. It was impossible to dislike the creatures after seeing one enjoying its lunch.)Elisabeth Tova Bailey spent several years suffering from a severe illness which left her unable to sit up, read, or even listen to any music more polyphonic than Gregorian chant. One of her visitors, one day, brings her a pot of violets with a small snail in it, and she becomes fascinated by watching the snail going about its business. After her recovery she followed up the fascination with some research, which produced this book - a mix of her own observations and the existing scientific knowledge about snails. I will confine myself to a couple of snippets from the book - for example, snail slime is far more than just an aid to locomotion. Almost one-third of a snail's energy goes into producing slimes, different ones for moving, healing itself (eg rebuilding its shell if it becomes cracked), looking after its eggs, defending itself, and of course, courting and mating. And that's an even more amazing sequence - some snails actually produce within their bodies small arrows of calcium carbonate, and at one point during foreplay the two animals shoot these arrows into the bodies of their potential mates. The shape of these arrows varies between species, as well as the number which is produced. It's thought that the dart transmits pheromones. Oh, and I don't think my use of the word 'foreplay' was exaggerated: in the first stage of the mating process, "the snails draw slowly closer, often circling each other, smooching, and exchanging tentacle touches".Another pleasure of the book is the snail-related quotations from books and poetry (often haiku - snails must be one of the recognised season words), my favourite being the following, from 1881: The {snail's} tentacles are as expressive as a mule's ears, giving an appearance of listless enjoyment when they hang down, and an immense alertness if they are rigid, as happens when the snail is on a march." (I like this not just because of the idea of a snail on the march, but also because of the hours of careful observation that the quote suggests.) The loveliest haiku is at my feet/ when did you get here?/ snail. Tova Bailey occasionally compares her own situation to that of the snail - in particular, the fact that her illness has made her seem invisible or unimportant to the outside world, in the same way that snails are ignored. She also notes that as she starts to recover and gains more energy, observing the snail suddenly starts to require patience. This is not a book about illness, but it is a book about valuing, and paying attention to, the smallest aspects of life.Sample: The snail loved the mushroom. It was so happy to have a familiar food, after weeks of nothing but wilted flowers, that for several days it slept right next to the huge piece of portobello, waking throughout the day to reach up and nibble before sinking back into a well-fed slumber.Recommended for: anyone not too intolerant of snails, or of whimsy, to appreciate it.read more
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"...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."Elisabeth Tova Bailey was in her mid-thirties when struck with a mysterious illness that soon led to her complete incapacitation. Without knowing the cause, much less the cure or the course that it might take, the disease was a frightening visitor. One day, a friend stops by with a rather odd gift. A snail, from out in the yard. First placed in a flower pot and eventually a terrarium, the snail becomes Bailey's constant companion. Because of her lack of mobility and energy, much of her time was spent observing the creature.You might think this would be dull, or worse, that you'd be stuck listening to someone bleakly describing their every physical complaint. Not so. This book has very little to do with health issues and far more to do with curiosity and resilience. Bailey is not a complainer, actual details of her health are few and without self-pity. She doesn't simply give up either, she makes clear she wants to fight this unknown assailant on her life. That she does so with the help of a small snail is astounding. The first surprise is that snails have a daily routine. They have certain times to eat and sleep and travel. They often return to the same place to sleep, and they sleep on their side. (!!!) As she watches the daily activities of the snail, she manages to study research on snails in general and in detail. Turns out snail research is pretty deep...volumes have been written on every tiny detail. As in: snails have teeth, 2200+ of them! Seriously, if they were bigger you'd think twice about stepping on one. They also have a special talent for when the going gets tough in their little world: they start a process called estivation. It's not hibernation (they do that too!) but instead it allows them to become dormant when the weather goes bad, or they lose their preferred food source, etc. Some snails have been known to estivate more than a few years. The process of sealing off their little shell is fascinating, and a study in insulation.Then there's the romance. Researchers have studied that too, and I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say lady snails are not complaining about romance in their life! Male snails really knock themselves out on the charm aspect. So much of the research that is out there is fascinating, and Bailey sorts through it and shares the most interesting details. This isn't just a science project for her, she sees parallels in her condition as well as the snail's. Illness took her out of her social circle, and her life seemed slow and inconsequential. And snails usually are a typical example of slow and inconsequential living:"Everything about a snail is cryptic, and it was precisely this air of mystery that first captured my interest. y own life, I realized, was becoming just as cryptic. From the severe onset of my illness and through its innumerable relapses, my place in the world has been documented more by my absence than by my presence. While close friends understood my situation, those who didn't know me well found my disappearance from work and social circles inexplicable....it wasn't that I had truly vanished; I was simply homebound, like a snail pulled into its shell. But being homebound in the human world is a sort of vanishing."What makes this memoir unique, besides her indomitable spirit, is that she doesn't push any sort of religious or spiritual agenda for her positive outlook. There is no implied message, which is often a feature of such an inspiring book. Her facts are based on solid research, and she doesn't waste words; her prose is clear and precise. Additionally, and this may be trivial, but the book is exceptionally beautiful: little snail insignias, and designs, poetic quotes, and the actual fonts and design layout make it lovely.One word of warning. Some inspirational "illness" stories often end up being the 'go to' gift choice for a sick friend. I know of one gentleman, who, when diagnosed with a serious illness, received eight copies of Tuesdays with Morrie from well-meaning friends. This is not that kind of book. It would be a far better gift for a Type-A personality that needs to slow down in their hectic life, or a book just to savor for yourself. It actually might make a great gift for a young person interested in science (the "romance" portions are tame). In any case, this book made me want to reconsider how much of my hectic life could be slowed down to enjoy the smaller but ultimately relevant details in the natural world around me.read more
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49. [The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating] [[Elisabeth Tova Bailey]] ****On a visit to Europe the author was struck down by a mysterious and hugely debilitating disease for which her doctors were unable to find a cure. Completely confined to bed and immobilised to the extent that even turning from one side to another represents the major effort of her day, she is surprised when a friend brings her a pot of violets which contains a small snail. Initially daunted by the thought of the responsibility of caring for something even as small as a snail, she soon finds that having the snail as a companion gives her a focus and interest in her otherwise monotonous life. Her inability to do anything else means that she has the time to study the minutiae of her snail's existence. Her life becomes bound up in the snail to the extent that when it apparently disappears from the terrarium that has been created for it, she realises that she is 'almost more attached to the snail than she is to her own tenuous life'.This is a very short, beautifully written book providing an insight into the life of an animal that can be seen every day but to which few people pay any attention, but which has an interesting an individual story when viewed in this way. I've got a degree in zoology so I'm interested in animals of all types, but rarely read this type of natural history book preferring a more scientific approach, but even so I really enjoyed this book. I can't say that I'd ever been particularly keen on snails, seeing them mainly as things that ate my hostas, but this book has made me look at them very differently. I don't think that I will look at snails in the same way again.read more
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Part memoir, part nature writing it's a sweet book with a lot of insights into illness and life.read more
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When Bailey found herself bed-ridden as the result of a rare auto-immune disease, a friend brought her a wild snail to be her bedside pet. Too weak to sit up, or even to roll over, Bailey had nothing to fill her days except watching the snail. Soon the snail becomes Bailey's whole world. This is a beautifully-written and poignant book. Bailey began reading up on gastropods, and much of the knowledge she gleaned is shared in the book. As a result I learned a great deal about snails. Gastropods really are amazing creatures; one could subtitle this book '1001 Things to Do with Mucus.' Bailey offers some musings on life with captive illness, and she compares the snail's constrained world with her own. Really, though, the focus is on the snail and Bailey's developing relationship therewith. By the end of the book I was really starting to love the snail.read more
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Some beautiful prose. I love her lingering attention to the small. Unfortunately, the book got quite slow--not enough inner transformation or at least reflection for my tastes.read more
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The Sound of Wild Snail Eating is not your typical memoir or inspirational novel. Nor will you expect to hear much talk about finding God in between these pages. Elisabeth Tova Bailey takes us on a brief journey through her life and the mysterious disease that leaves her in a state of paralysis. Not being able to stand or walk or even sit up in bed, you would think that her life was over and yet when she begins observing the life of a small woodland snail, she finds meaning not only in herself but in our own species.I really enjoyed reading this story even though it is based entirely on snail watching. I did not know much about the book before I contacted the publisher and even if you read the synopsis, you would still be surprised by the story in front of you. The Sound of Wild Snail Eating is a truly quirky memoir and Bailey is a very resilient, courageous woman. It was painful reading about how debilitating her mysterious disease left her. Even worse was reading the epilogue and having bailey describing her numerous diagnoses. I couldn’t help but think how I would handle the situation if it were me. However bailey has the spirit of a lion and she found a renewed sense of purpose from her observations. It was a joy to read about her discoveries with the snail and subsequently her own personal revelations about life.For a book whose pace threaten to be s….l….o….w, I thought that this book was a fast read since most of the chapters are short and the prose is quick and flows nicely with the story. Bailey is very descriptive and rightly so since she’s involved in participant observation. There were times when this book felt like a documentary into the life of a snail rather than a memoir. Bailey covered everything from the anatomy of the snail to its eating habits and even their reproductive traits. The reader learns a lot as well for example: “Spiral direction has an impact on relationships; a snail must find a mate of its species with a matching shell.” pg 64 Yet you are quickly reminded of Bailey’s presence in the novel when she makes comparisons between her present medical condition and the snail. Aside from the therapeutic qualities that this snail brought to bailey, I honestly think that her research will prove instrumental in the study of Neohelix albolaris or the woodland snail.After reading this book, perhaps you’ll come away with a great appreciation for snails or perhaps you’ll come away with a great appreciation for life itself. What’s guaranteed is that you will come away thinking that this is a great story and Elisabeth Tova Bailey is a courageous woman.read more
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The author of this very short memoir contracts an autoimmune disease while in Europe on assignment. The severity of it leaves her bedridden for years and sometime during the early stages of the disease a friend brings her a potted violet plant to which a common garden snail (Neohelix albolabris) has attached itself. Slowly the snail emerges from the shell and the author begins to examine how it carries on its daily activity. She has compiled her journal entries from this time of her life into this brief memoir. I cannot do justice to the prosaic nature of this scientific account other than to say that I was charmed from beginning to end. There is no whining over the fact that she contracted a devastating illness, actually very little information about the illness at all until the last couple of pages of the book. Its discourse is predominantly about the way the snail conducts its life and how we might emulate some of its characteristics. The book is absolutely loaded with quotable passages, framed around the life of the snail. Since the author could barely move in her bed, she had plenty of opportunity to study the snail (which she chose not to name) and its habits. What she learned from the snail could, well, fill a book.”It was in Tony Cook’s chapter in ‘The Biology of Terrestrial Molluscs,’ titled ‘Behavioural Ecology,’ that I found the sentence that best expresses a snail’s way of life: ‘The right thing to do is to do nothing, the place to do it is in a place of concealment and the time to do it is as often as possible.’””Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties…Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.”Beautifully written, full of insight and thoughtful contemplation on what a quiet solitary life can mean I found this memoir to be poignant and charming. Highly recommendedread more
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I accidentally read this. Downloaded a sample to my Kindle> liked it> bought the book to read later but just wanted to read a few more pages> read it all.

This is a quiet, intimate book about a woman and her land snail. The youthful author contracts some unknown and completely debilitating virus while vacationing abroad. This virus changes her body permanently. One day she is brimming with joyeux de vivre and the next day she is bedridden, betrayed by her body and literally without the ability to sit up. She is physically and mentally isolated by her condition. Enter a small land snail, brought to her in a pot of violets, gifted to her by a friend.

The land snail becomes her connection to the living world. They live at the same pace. Through quiet observation, she learns much about her molluscan friend. Her own observations are enhanced by bouquets of snail science and lore from naturalists, writers and poets. The book is fascinating.

There is a lot of gratitude-for-small-things in this book. There are things that are important to our spirits that are drowned out by things that shout at us in our fast paced lives.

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This is a wonderful, strange, intimate book. The author describes her growing relationship with her only constant companion, a snail, during a long convalescence from a mysterious ailment. Along the way, we learn about her, snails and the country of illness. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are wonderful as is the extensive bibliography.read more
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"The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" is a delightful read. Bailey manages to be both whimsical and profound in this small book. During an illness that has the author fighting for her survival, a friend bestows the gift of life on the author by presenting her with a snail. By learning how the tiny mollusk eats, sleeps and moves, the reader takes the journey of recovery, both physical and emotional with Bailey.Using the snail as a metaphor becomes a perfectly sound literary device under Bailey's deft pen. The snail's slow-paced life reflects Bailey's own physicality, her need to slow down all processes to cater to the illness that is ravaging her. She is unable to stand upright, to walk, or to care for herself. The snail is self-sufficient, gliding through its daily offices and is in fact a hermaphrodite and as such is capable of producing its own offspring. How Bailey must long to care for herself to that extent. But rather than envy the snail, Bailey admires its simple mode of survival, using complex scientific processes in the most basic ways to survive.Providing the reader with snail trivia both entertaining and didactic, Bailey paints the picture of a season spent with a creature who helps her to understand that there are ways that each of us find to fill our place in the world, wherever it may be at that moment. The snail, in his terrarium and the author in her bed, provide the simplest of aid to each other, and ultimately, one of the most important, companionship.read more
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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.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.read more
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This is a charming little book that is just as much about a human as it is about a snail. Bailey has a medical condition that renders her unable to sit up or move very much for long stretches of time (months. During one of those relapses, one of her caretakers cheerfully uprooted some violets from the woods outside the little house where she was staying and plopped a small snail under them and brought them in to cheer the invalid's bedside. Little did this person know that she started a love affair of a lifetime, while at the same time giving perspective, hope, and companionship to the frustrated and forlorn Bailey. Full of scientific detail (about snails) and psychological observations (about humans), this simple tale has endless layers and resonant insights that make it far more than the sum of its pages.
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I'm so, so grateful to whoever recommended this book. It's not the kind of thing I would typically pick up, but I'm very glad I did (and I've already loaned it out because I couldn't not share it with others). Briefly, the story is a memoir about the author's illness and isolation during her recovery, and the observations she makes on a wild snail that her caretaker brings in on a pot of plants. She watches the snail, bonds with it through her own slow-paced existence, and presents a multitude of fascinating facts about snails -- most of which she learned during her illness, while reading a tome about mollusks to better understand her slimy companion.Although short, the book is delightful, lovely, informative, and poignant. I also find myself fascinated by the complexity of something so easily taken for granted as snails! Have I ever considered the physiology and behavior of snails before? Absolutely not, until this book. And what truthful observations on the human condition and the pace of modern life.This book is not to be missed. Even if you don't normally read these sorts of things, this little volume is well worth your time.
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How many books have you read with a Library of Congress classification of “Snails as pets”??The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- my first :) -- is partly a memoir of 34-year-old Elisabeth Tova Bailey being flat-out bedridden during the first year of a chronic illness that would persist for decades. But it’s mostly a gentle scientific exploration of the common land snail, which a friend plucks from the New England woods and places in a pot of violets at Bailey’s bedside. It brings her comfort and immeasurable diversion, and the information about snails that she excerpts from science, literature and poetry bring the same to the reader.
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The author of this very short memoir contracts an autoimmune disease while in Europe on assignment. The severity of it leaves her bedridden for years and sometime during the early stages of the disease a friend brings her a potted violet plant to which a common garden snail (Neohelix albolabris) has attached itself. Slowly the snail emerges from the shell and the author begins to examine how it carries on its daily activity. She has compiled her journal entries from this time of her life into this brief memoir. I cannot do justice to the prosaic nature of this scientific account other than to say that I was charmed from beginning to end. There is no whining over the fact that she contracted a devastating illness, actually very little information about the illness at all until the last couple of pages of the book. Its discourse is predominantly about the way the snail conducts its life and how we might emulate some of its characteristics. The book is absolutely loaded with quotable passages, framed around the life of the snail. Since the author could barely move in her bed, she had plenty of opportunity to study the snail (which she chose not to name) and its habits. What she learned from the snail could, well, fill a book.”It was in Tony Cook’s chapter in ‘The Biology of Terrestrial Molluscs,’ titled ‘Behavioural Ecology,’ that I found the sentence that best expresses a snail’s way of life: ‘The right thing to do is to do nothing, the place to do it is in a place of concealment and the time to do it is as often as possible.’””Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties…Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.”Beautifully written, full of insight and thoughtful contemplation on what a quiet solitary life can mean I found this memoir to be poignant and charming. Highly recommended
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This is a wonderful, strange, intimate book. The author describes her growing relationship with her only constant companion, a snail, during a long convalescence from a mysterious ailment. Along the way, we learn about her, snails and the country of illness. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are wonderful as is the extensive bibliography.
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This is a short meditation on disease, being alone, and the power of even a small uncommuncative creature to give companionship and some measure of meaning to life. The author is suffering from an illness that causes her to have to lie flat all day long. For most of the day she is alone in a small apartment, although caregivers come to assist her, but we don't learn much about them or their role in her life. Her main focus is on a small woods snail which a friend brought in to her room in with a potted violet plants, both taken from the nearby woods. She observes the activities of the snail and describes them for us. Occasionally, she bemoans her situation and necessary removal from society. She presents some of her research into snails.It doesn't sound like much, but I greatly enjoyed the read. It is easily accomplished in a lazy afternoon.
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Pleasant light read, but for some reason didn't grab me. I guess I was expecting some sort of larger payoff than the book delivered. Will encourage many to keep a snail or an insect in a terrarium though and learn to watch more closely.
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This is a charming little book that is just as much about a human as it is about a snail. Bailey has a medical condition that renders her unable to sit up or move very much for long stretches of time (months. During one of those relapses, one of her caretakers cheerfully uprooted some violets from the woods outside the little house where she was staying and plopped a small snail under them and brought them in to cheer the invalid's bedside. Little did this person know that she started a love affair of a lifetime, while at the same time giving perspective, hope, and companionship to the frustrated and forlorn Bailey. Full of scientific detail (about snails) and psychological observations (about humans), this simple tale has endless layers and resonant insights that make it far more than the sum of its pages.
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I'm so, so grateful to whoever recommended this book. It's not the kind of thing I would typically pick up, but I'm very glad I did (and I've already loaned it out because I couldn't not share it with others). Briefly, the story is a memoir about the author's illness and isolation during her recovery, and the observations she makes on a wild snail that her caretaker brings in on a pot of plants. She watches the snail, bonds with it through her own slow-paced existence, and presents a multitude of fascinating facts about snails -- most of which she learned during her illness, while reading a tome about mollusks to better understand her slimy companion.Although short, the book is delightful, lovely, informative, and poignant. I also find myself fascinated by the complexity of something so easily taken for granted as snails! Have I ever considered the physiology and behavior of snails before? Absolutely not, until this book. And what truthful observations on the human condition and the pace of modern life.This book is not to be missed. Even if you don't normally read these sorts of things, this little volume is well worth your time.
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I loved this book so much that I am going to buy a copy for myself. It made me cry because it was so beautiful and touching. I stopped a few times in the middle of reading to imagine myself watching "the snail" live it's life. " The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" has got me thinking about owning a pet snail but then I think about it and realize a snail deserve to be free just like me.
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How many books have you read with a Library of Congress classification of “Snails as pets”??The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- my first :) -- is partly a memoir of 34-year-old Elisabeth Tova Bailey being flat-out bedridden during the first year of a chronic illness that would persist for decades. But it’s mostly a gentle scientific exploration of the common land snail, which a friend plucks from the New England woods and places in a pot of violets at Bailey’s bedside. It brings her comfort and immeasurable diversion, and the information about snails that she excerpts from science, literature and poetry bring the same to the reader.
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Elisabeth Bailey was stricken with a mysterious, unnamed virus while traveling. The virus basically rendered her bedridden for years, with ups and downs, recoveries and relapses along the way. This book is the story of one of her bedridden years in which she was given a pet snail and spent much of her waking time observing it. You'll care about this snail more than you ever thought you would and you'll learn many interesting facts about snails in this book. For instance, did you know that when mating some snail species shoot love darts at each other? And that snails have thousands of teeth? And that snails can regrow parts of their shells if they are damaged? But this is more than a book about snails. It's also a book about the isolation often felt by sufferers of chronic illness and about how Elisabeth dealt with a solitary life. When her disease made it impossible for her to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time, impossible to physically hold up a book or concentrate on the story, she found great comfort in the snail slowly living its life by her side. The snail was there for her when her friends couldn't make the long trip out to see her.
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey was laid low by a mystery virus for years, so debilitated that it was a major undertaking to leave her bed, and even to sit up or turn over was a big deal. She couldn’t play with her dog, and even the most welcome of visitors left her feeling exhausted. While she was in this state of enforced passivity, a friend brought her a gift of a tiny snail she had found in the woods. The author initially responded unenthusiastically, but as time passed she found that the snail provided not only a distraction during her long stretches of solitude, but also a deeply comforting companionship.The story is beautifully told. As the relationship with the snail develops, we follow the illness’s progress, share the writer’s reflections on her subjective experience of time, are treated to snail-related gleanings from literary greats and not-so-greats (Oliver Goldsmith, Kobayashi Issa, Elizabeth Bishop, Rainer Maria Rilke, Patricia Cornwall – the list goes on), and learn fascinating information about the anatomy, habits, defences and mating behaviour of snails, some observed directly by Ms Bailey and much garnered from the reference books that took up a lot of her bed time.The book is charming, but it’s also much more. What emerges is a profound sense of respect for living things and for the connectedness between them. The chapter epigraphs include a number of marvellous haiku. There’s something haiku-like about the book as a whole: where the tiny poems capture a moment, this book, really an extended personal essay, captures a much more substantial swathe of time, but because of the mental state induced by the author’s illness it has a haiku-ish sense of quiet discovery.It’s generally done without straining for effect, without heavily emotive language or – I realised about half way through – any whiff of religiosity. Richard Dawkins would be delighted. I was.
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s latest work, “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” has a title that naturally intrigues. Is this book really about snails? And if so, how interesting or exciting can that be? Is reading this book going to be like watching paint dry or grass grow? And can you actually hear a wild snail eating? The answer to the last question is “yes”, but don’t leave it at that. This book is worth your time: you will very likely read it in one sitting.Bailey finds herself in a situation of enforced inactivity. It is the reader’s good fortune that she uses her time to share her observations of Neohelix albolabris, the White-lipped forest snail. Bailey displays a great insight into her own situation. She identifies with her snail: they are both homebound; both prisoners; both displaced from their usual familiar environment. Bailey’s isolation is kept at bay by her snail (as hard as this may be to believe!). We are treated to quite a different perspective of the world. This book is full of easily-digestible information about snails and delightful quotes and anecdotes about snails from various literary sources. And, as unlikely as it may seem, there is also philosophy, humour and sex. This book is truly a pleasure to read. And after reading it, you may well hesitate as your hand reaches for the snail pellets, next time you go into the garden.
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A remarkable little book about a little critter and its relationship to a highly sensitive woman. Reminiscent of Throreau, no less.
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While bedridden, with a mysterious illness, the author of this book was given a pot of violets and a little snail that her friend had found while digging up the violets in the woods. With nothing else that she could do, Elisabeth spent time observing the snail and soon had someone create a terrarium for it as a more proper home.This book is well written and filled with quotes from other sources about snails. Who knew so much study had been dedicated to snails? It also is filled with Elisabeth's musings about her illness as she misses the normal active life she used to lead.Did you know that there are such things as microscopic snails that are blown about in the air? It kind of creeps me out that we could be breathing in snails! Which also brings to mind the "Inside Ralphy" episode of "The Magic School Bus". I was touched by the fact that the presence of a snail to watch helped Elisabeth to get through a year of her debilitating illness. She shares her thoughts and her later research on snails in an interesting, lyrical book.
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I read about this book on the blog ReadAllDay, and the topic intrigued me. A woman who is bedridden with a serious illness watches a snail living in a plant by her bedside. After seeing several good reviews on your threads, I picked it up at the library. Bailey has written a slow, gentle book. She writes only briefly about the illness that makes turning from one side to the other a chore. More time is spent on her observations of the snail who shares her days and nights, and her research about snails in general. The slow pace of the snail matches her energy levels and becomes the focus of her attention. The book made me count my blessing while also making me feel the need to slow down of my own accord so that I don't miss the sound of a wild snail eating.
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Occasionally interesting bits about snails and a nice idea, but trite overall.
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This slim but charming volume really is about snails, which turn out to be remarkably interesting beasties. (I used to loathe them until one day I saw one sitting on top of my compost bin, chomping happily on a fresh leaf. It was impossible to dislike the creatures after seeing one enjoying its lunch.)Elisabeth Tova Bailey spent several years suffering from a severe illness which left her unable to sit up, read, or even listen to any music more polyphonic than Gregorian chant. One of her visitors, one day, brings her a pot of violets with a small snail in it, and she becomes fascinated by watching the snail going about its business. After her recovery she followed up the fascination with some research, which produced this book - a mix of her own observations and the existing scientific knowledge about snails. I will confine myself to a couple of snippets from the book - for example, snail slime is far more than just an aid to locomotion. Almost one-third of a snail's energy goes into producing slimes, different ones for moving, healing itself (eg rebuilding its shell if it becomes cracked), looking after its eggs, defending itself, and of course, courting and mating. And that's an even more amazing sequence - some snails actually produce within their bodies small arrows of calcium carbonate, and at one point during foreplay the two animals shoot these arrows into the bodies of their potential mates. The shape of these arrows varies between species, as well as the number which is produced. It's thought that the dart transmits pheromones. Oh, and I don't think my use of the word 'foreplay' was exaggerated: in the first stage of the mating process, "the snails draw slowly closer, often circling each other, smooching, and exchanging tentacle touches".Another pleasure of the book is the snail-related quotations from books and poetry (often haiku - snails must be one of the recognised season words), my favourite being the following, from 1881: The {snail's} tentacles are as expressive as a mule's ears, giving an appearance of listless enjoyment when they hang down, and an immense alertness if they are rigid, as happens when the snail is on a march." (I like this not just because of the idea of a snail on the march, but also because of the hours of careful observation that the quote suggests.) The loveliest haiku is at my feet/ when did you get here?/ snail. Tova Bailey occasionally compares her own situation to that of the snail - in particular, the fact that her illness has made her seem invisible or unimportant to the outside world, in the same way that snails are ignored. She also notes that as she starts to recover and gains more energy, observing the snail suddenly starts to require patience. This is not a book about illness, but it is a book about valuing, and paying attention to, the smallest aspects of life.Sample: The snail loved the mushroom. It was so happy to have a familiar food, after weeks of nothing but wilted flowers, that for several days it slept right next to the huge piece of portobello, waking throughout the day to reach up and nibble before sinking back into a well-fed slumber.Recommended for: anyone not too intolerant of snails, or of whimsy, to appreciate it.
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"...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."Elisabeth Tova Bailey was in her mid-thirties when struck with a mysterious illness that soon led to her complete incapacitation. Without knowing the cause, much less the cure or the course that it might take, the disease was a frightening visitor. One day, a friend stops by with a rather odd gift. A snail, from out in the yard. First placed in a flower pot and eventually a terrarium, the snail becomes Bailey's constant companion. Because of her lack of mobility and energy, much of her time was spent observing the creature.You might think this would be dull, or worse, that you'd be stuck listening to someone bleakly describing their every physical complaint. Not so. This book has very little to do with health issues and far more to do with curiosity and resilience. Bailey is not a complainer, actual details of her health are few and without self-pity. She doesn't simply give up either, she makes clear she wants to fight this unknown assailant on her life. That she does so with the help of a small snail is astounding. The first surprise is that snails have a daily routine. They have certain times to eat and sleep and travel. They often return to the same place to sleep, and they sleep on their side. (!!!) As she watches the daily activities of the snail, she manages to study research on snails in general and in detail. Turns out snail research is pretty deep...volumes have been written on every tiny detail. As in: snails have teeth, 2200+ of them! Seriously, if they were bigger you'd think twice about stepping on one. They also have a special talent for when the going gets tough in their little world: they start a process called estivation. It's not hibernation (they do that too!) but instead it allows them to become dormant when the weather goes bad, or they lose their preferred food source, etc. Some snails have been known to estivate more than a few years. The process of sealing off their little shell is fascinating, and a study in insulation.Then there's the romance. Researchers have studied that too, and I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say lady snails are not complaining about romance in their life! Male snails really knock themselves out on the charm aspect. So much of the research that is out there is fascinating, and Bailey sorts through it and shares the most interesting details. This isn't just a science project for her, she sees parallels in her condition as well as the snail's. Illness took her out of her social circle, and her life seemed slow and inconsequential. And snails usually are a typical example of slow and inconsequential living:"Everything about a snail is cryptic, and it was precisely this air of mystery that first captured my interest. y own life, I realized, was becoming just as cryptic. From the severe onset of my illness and through its innumerable relapses, my place in the world has been documented more by my absence than by my presence. While close friends understood my situation, those who didn't know me well found my disappearance from work and social circles inexplicable....it wasn't that I had truly vanished; I was simply homebound, like a snail pulled into its shell. But being homebound in the human world is a sort of vanishing."What makes this memoir unique, besides her indomitable spirit, is that she doesn't push any sort of religious or spiritual agenda for her positive outlook. There is no implied message, which is often a feature of such an inspiring book. Her facts are based on solid research, and she doesn't waste words; her prose is clear and precise. Additionally, and this may be trivial, but the book is exceptionally beautiful: little snail insignias, and designs, poetic quotes, and the actual fonts and design layout make it lovely.One word of warning. Some inspirational "illness" stories often end up being the 'go to' gift choice for a sick friend. I know of one gentleman, who, when diagnosed with a serious illness, received eight copies of Tuesdays with Morrie from well-meaning friends. This is not that kind of book. It would be a far better gift for a Type-A personality that needs to slow down in their hectic life, or a book just to savor for yourself. It actually might make a great gift for a young person interested in science (the "romance" portions are tame). In any case, this book made me want to reconsider how much of my hectic life could be slowed down to enjoy the smaller but ultimately relevant details in the natural world around me.
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49. [The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating] [[Elisabeth Tova Bailey]] ****On a visit to Europe the author was struck down by a mysterious and hugely debilitating disease for which her doctors were unable to find a cure. Completely confined to bed and immobilised to the extent that even turning from one side to another represents the major effort of her day, she is surprised when a friend brings her a pot of violets which contains a small snail. Initially daunted by the thought of the responsibility of caring for something even as small as a snail, she soon finds that having the snail as a companion gives her a focus and interest in her otherwise monotonous life. Her inability to do anything else means that she has the time to study the minutiae of her snail's existence. Her life becomes bound up in the snail to the extent that when it apparently disappears from the terrarium that has been created for it, she realises that she is 'almost more attached to the snail than she is to her own tenuous life'.This is a very short, beautifully written book providing an insight into the life of an animal that can be seen every day but to which few people pay any attention, but which has an interesting an individual story when viewed in this way. I've got a degree in zoology so I'm interested in animals of all types, but rarely read this type of natural history book preferring a more scientific approach, but even so I really enjoyed this book. I can't say that I'd ever been particularly keen on snails, seeing them mainly as things that ate my hostas, but this book has made me look at them very differently. I don't think that I will look at snails in the same way again.
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Part memoir, part nature writing it's a sweet book with a lot of insights into illness and life.
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When Bailey found herself bed-ridden as the result of a rare auto-immune disease, a friend brought her a wild snail to be her bedside pet. Too weak to sit up, or even to roll over, Bailey had nothing to fill her days except watching the snail. Soon the snail becomes Bailey's whole world. This is a beautifully-written and poignant book. Bailey began reading up on gastropods, and much of the knowledge she gleaned is shared in the book. As a result I learned a great deal about snails. Gastropods really are amazing creatures; one could subtitle this book '1001 Things to Do with Mucus.' Bailey offers some musings on life with captive illness, and she compares the snail's constrained world with her own. Really, though, the focus is on the snail and Bailey's developing relationship therewith. By the end of the book I was really starting to love the snail.
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Some beautiful prose. I love her lingering attention to the small. Unfortunately, the book got quite slow--not enough inner transformation or at least reflection for my tastes.
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The Sound of Wild Snail Eating is not your typical memoir or inspirational novel. Nor will you expect to hear much talk about finding God in between these pages. Elisabeth Tova Bailey takes us on a brief journey through her life and the mysterious disease that leaves her in a state of paralysis. Not being able to stand or walk or even sit up in bed, you would think that her life was over and yet when she begins observing the life of a small woodland snail, she finds meaning not only in herself but in our own species.I really enjoyed reading this story even though it is based entirely on snail watching. I did not know much about the book before I contacted the publisher and even if you read the synopsis, you would still be surprised by the story in front of you. The Sound of Wild Snail Eating is a truly quirky memoir and Bailey is a very resilient, courageous woman. It was painful reading about how debilitating her mysterious disease left her. Even worse was reading the epilogue and having bailey describing her numerous diagnoses. I couldn’t help but think how I would handle the situation if it were me. However bailey has the spirit of a lion and she found a renewed sense of purpose from her observations. It was a joy to read about her discoveries with the snail and subsequently her own personal revelations about life.For a book whose pace threaten to be s….l….o….w, I thought that this book was a fast read since most of the chapters are short and the prose is quick and flows nicely with the story. Bailey is very descriptive and rightly so since she’s involved in participant observation. There were times when this book felt like a documentary into the life of a snail rather than a memoir. Bailey covered everything from the anatomy of the snail to its eating habits and even their reproductive traits. The reader learns a lot as well for example: “Spiral direction has an impact on relationships; a snail must find a mate of its species with a matching shell.” pg 64 Yet you are quickly reminded of Bailey’s presence in the novel when she makes comparisons between her present medical condition and the snail. Aside from the therapeutic qualities that this snail brought to bailey, I honestly think that her research will prove instrumental in the study of Neohelix albolaris or the woodland snail.After reading this book, perhaps you’ll come away with a great appreciation for snails or perhaps you’ll come away with a great appreciation for life itself. What’s guaranteed is that you will come away thinking that this is a great story and Elisabeth Tova Bailey is a courageous woman.
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The author of this very short memoir contracts an autoimmune disease while in Europe on assignment. The severity of it leaves her bedridden for years and sometime during the early stages of the disease a friend brings her a potted violet plant to which a common garden snail (Neohelix albolabris) has attached itself. Slowly the snail emerges from the shell and the author begins to examine how it carries on its daily activity. She has compiled her journal entries from this time of her life into this brief memoir. I cannot do justice to the prosaic nature of this scientific account other than to say that I was charmed from beginning to end. There is no whining over the fact that she contracted a devastating illness, actually very little information about the illness at all until the last couple of pages of the book. Its discourse is predominantly about the way the snail conducts its life and how we might emulate some of its characteristics. The book is absolutely loaded with quotable passages, framed around the life of the snail. Since the author could barely move in her bed, she had plenty of opportunity to study the snail (which she chose not to name) and its habits. What she learned from the snail could, well, fill a book.”It was in Tony Cook’s chapter in ‘The Biology of Terrestrial Molluscs,’ titled ‘Behavioural Ecology,’ that I found the sentence that best expresses a snail’s way of life: ‘The right thing to do is to do nothing, the place to do it is in a place of concealment and the time to do it is as often as possible.’””Given the ease with which health infuses life with meaning and purpose, it is shocking how swiftly illness steals away those certainties…Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.”Beautifully written, full of insight and thoughtful contemplation on what a quiet solitary life can mean I found this memoir to be poignant and charming. Highly recommended
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I accidentally read this. Downloaded a sample to my Kindle> liked it> bought the book to read later but just wanted to read a few more pages> read it all.

This is a quiet, intimate book about a woman and her land snail. The youthful author contracts some unknown and completely debilitating virus while vacationing abroad. This virus changes her body permanently. One day she is brimming with joyeux de vivre and the next day she is bedridden, betrayed by her body and literally without the ability to sit up. She is physically and mentally isolated by her condition. Enter a small land snail, brought to her in a pot of violets, gifted to her by a friend.

The land snail becomes her connection to the living world. They live at the same pace. Through quiet observation, she learns much about her molluscan friend. Her own observations are enhanced by bouquets of snail science and lore from naturalists, writers and poets. The book is fascinating.

There is a lot of gratitude-for-small-things in this book. There are things that are important to our spirits that are drowned out by things that shout at us in our fast paced lives.

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This is a wonderful, strange, intimate book. The author describes her growing relationship with her only constant companion, a snail, during a long convalescence from a mysterious ailment. Along the way, we learn about her, snails and the country of illness. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are wonderful as is the extensive bibliography.
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"The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" is a delightful read. Bailey manages to be both whimsical and profound in this small book. During an illness that has the author fighting for her survival, a friend bestows the gift of life on the author by presenting her with a snail. By learning how the tiny mollusk eats, sleeps and moves, the reader takes the journey of recovery, both physical and emotional with Bailey.Using the snail as a metaphor becomes a perfectly sound literary device under Bailey's deft pen. The snail's slow-paced life reflects Bailey's own physicality, her need to slow down all processes to cater to the illness that is ravaging her. She is unable to stand upright, to walk, or to care for herself. The snail is self-sufficient, gliding through its daily offices and is in fact a hermaphrodite and as such is capable of producing its own offspring. How Bailey must long to care for herself to that extent. But rather than envy the snail, Bailey admires its simple mode of survival, using complex scientific processes in the most basic ways to survive.Providing the reader with snail trivia both entertaining and didactic, Bailey paints the picture of a season spent with a creature who helps her to understand that there are ways that each of us find to fill our place in the world, wherever it may be at that moment. The snail, in his terrarium and the author in her bed, provide the simplest of aid to each other, and ultimately, one of the most important, companionship.
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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.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.
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