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Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea

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Charlotte Runcie has always felt pulled to the sea, lured by its soothing, calming qualities but also enlivened and inspired by its salty wildness. When she loses her beloved grandmother, and becomes pregnant with her first child, she feels its pull even more intensely. In Salt On Your Tongue Charlotte explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to Charlotte Runcie has always felt pulled to the sea, lured by its soothing, calming qualities but also enlivened and inspired by its salty wildness. When she loses her beloved grandmother, and becomes pregnant with her first child, she feels its pull even more intensely. In Salt On Your Tongue Charlotte explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to women through the ages. This book is a walk on the beach with Turner, with Shakespeare, with the Romantic Poets and shanty-singers. It's an ode to our oceans - to the sailors who brave their treacherous waters, to the women who lost their loved ones to the waves, to the creatures that dwell in their depths, to beach trawlers, swimmers, seabirds and mermaids. In mesmerising prose, Charlotte Runcie shows how the sea has inspired, fascinated and terrified us, and how she herself fell in love with the deep blue. Navigating through ancient Greek myths, poetry, shipwrecks and Scottish folktales, Salt On Your Tongue is about how the wild untameable waves can help us understand what it means to be human.


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Charlotte Runcie has always felt pulled to the sea, lured by its soothing, calming qualities but also enlivened and inspired by its salty wildness. When she loses her beloved grandmother, and becomes pregnant with her first child, she feels its pull even more intensely. In Salt On Your Tongue Charlotte explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to Charlotte Runcie has always felt pulled to the sea, lured by its soothing, calming qualities but also enlivened and inspired by its salty wildness. When she loses her beloved grandmother, and becomes pregnant with her first child, she feels its pull even more intensely. In Salt On Your Tongue Charlotte explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to women through the ages. This book is a walk on the beach with Turner, with Shakespeare, with the Romantic Poets and shanty-singers. It's an ode to our oceans - to the sailors who brave their treacherous waters, to the women who lost their loved ones to the waves, to the creatures that dwell in their depths, to beach trawlers, swimmers, seabirds and mermaids. In mesmerising prose, Charlotte Runcie shows how the sea has inspired, fascinated and terrified us, and how she herself fell in love with the deep blue. Navigating through ancient Greek myths, poetry, shipwrecks and Scottish folktales, Salt On Your Tongue is about how the wild untameable waves can help us understand what it means to be human.

30 review for Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    4.5 stars rounded up This is a real eclectic mixture of prose, poetry, myth, stories, personal recollections, the journal of a pregnancy, superstition and much more. Charlotte Runcie has turned her obsession with the sea into a fascinating memoir come collection of anecdotes. It is very much structured and based on Greek myth. But most of all this is about women and the sea: “The call of the sea is the call to the absolute strength of women,” And within the structure of the book is an account of Ru 4.5 stars rounded up This is a real eclectic mixture of prose, poetry, myth, stories, personal recollections, the journal of a pregnancy, superstition and much more. Charlotte Runcie has turned her obsession with the sea into a fascinating memoir come collection of anecdotes. It is very much structured and based on Greek myth. But most of all this is about women and the sea: “The call of the sea is the call to the absolute strength of women,” And within the structure of the book is an account of Runcie’s own pregnancy. It’s also very informative. The reader learns about St Elmo’s Fire, cocklewomen, Grendel, Grace Darling (inevitably), the saltpans of St Monans, sea shanties, sea silk, sea eagles, a brief history of childbirth at sea, the Odyssey, Our Lady Star of the Sea and much, much more. Periodically Runcie talks about geography as well: “There is no easily exact difference between the river and the sea; no invisible line where the freshwater ends and saltwater begins. The sea is a gradual process of becoming, of widening and ageing and growing into more. There’s a human scale to an estuary. Settlements cluster around them, growing into industrial heartlands over the centuries because they’re so useful for transport and trade and connection to the world. Even before industry, though, people were drawn to them to build their homes. They are poised on the edge, but still connected to home, to land, and to life-giving fresh drinking water as it turns to the salt of the sea.” Then she turns to contrasts between men’s and women’s relationship with the sea: “There is a pull, an understanding between women and the sea that has fascinated and scared men for thousands of years.” The book is erudite and well researched and there is plenty to fascinate. It is split up into small chunks. It does jump around a bit. The drawing together the story of pregnancy and childbirth and weaving that story in with musings and stories about the sea works well. The seven chapters (each split into smaller subchapters) are named after the Pleiades. There are references to Plath and Woolf as well as Turner and his painting, Shakespeare (The Tempest) and many more. It reads easily and anyone who feels the lure of the sea is likely to enjoy this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Salt On Your Tongue, Charlotte Runcie's debut novel, is a moving and beguiling portrait of the sea and the authors personal moments along the way. The fact that it is so beautifully written is a big part of its success - the lyrical prose and the visceral thoughts and descriptions are second to none and every place that is so vividly depicted you want to instantaneously visit. She also shares some very personal moments in her life and how they connect to her love of the sea. I particularly loved Salt On Your Tongue, Charlotte Runcie's debut novel, is a moving and beguiling portrait of the sea and the authors personal moments along the way. The fact that it is so beautifully written is a big part of its success - the lyrical prose and the visceral thoughts and descriptions are second to none and every place that is so vividly depicted you want to instantaneously visit. She also shares some very personal moments in her life and how they connect to her love of the sea. I particularly loved the parts about the highlands of Scotland and the Inner and Outer Hebrides; these are some of my favourite places on earth. It then branches out into myths, legends, folklore and history and into motherhood and the worries woman have about their health. This then inevitably leads to the issue of equality, and the fact of the matter is that we still have a long way to go before we have true gender equality. An interesting book that uniquely weaves the author's life story with her love of the ocean. Many thanks to Canongate Books for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    A large proportion of my childhood was spent growing up next to the sea at a tiny place in Sussex called Normans Bay. This shingled beach gave way to sand as the tide went out and I spent many hours there, in, by and on the sea. In a country that is no more than seventy miles from the sea, I am not alone in having that strong affinity to its salty wildness. Charlotte Runcie is one of those who is lured to its calming and yet ever-changing waters. When she loses her beloved grandmother she relies A large proportion of my childhood was spent growing up next to the sea at a tiny place in Sussex called Normans Bay. This shingled beach gave way to sand as the tide went out and I spent many hours there, in, by and on the sea. In a country that is no more than seventy miles from the sea, I am not alone in having that strong affinity to its salty wildness. Charlotte Runcie is one of those who is lured to its calming and yet ever-changing waters. When she loses her beloved grandmother she relies on time spent by the coast as she grieves for her. That longing becomes more intense as she falls pregnant with her first child and as she considers how the child within is growing in its watery haven. This leads onto exploring other streams, from folklore to wildlife, shipwrecks and saviours, mermaids to the people that rely on the sea for their livelihood. Each discovery leads onto further revelations and fascinations in subjects as diverse as shanties sung by trawlermen and sea glass, a material that once was crystal clear and now holds the memories of a thousand waves. Runcie has delved back into the classics to bring us watery female icons for each of the seven sections and mixes up sea centred stories, personal anecdotes, and mythology alongside her diary as an expectant mother. The most intense piece of writing in the book was the recollection of her giving birth. I was very impressed, as for a debut quite it is very lyrical with moments of exquisite prose. Looking forward to reading more from her.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    Having always lived on the island of Jersey, surrounded by the sea, I was instantly attracted to this book. I love the sound of the sea day or night, whatever the weather, so was keen to read Charlotte Runcie’s thoughts about Women and the Sea. From the eye-catching cover, to the beautiful retelling of seafaring adventurers, this book had me wanting to know more about the superstitions and folk tales in this book. I particularly enjoyed the story of the Fair Maid Tresses and the Selkies, somethin Having always lived on the island of Jersey, surrounded by the sea, I was instantly attracted to this book. I love the sound of the sea day or night, whatever the weather, so was keen to read Charlotte Runcie’s thoughts about Women and the Sea. From the eye-catching cover, to the beautiful retelling of seafaring adventurers, this book had me wanting to know more about the superstitions and folk tales in this book. I particularly enjoyed the story of the Fair Maid Tresses and the Selkies, something I remember my Scottish aunty telling me about many years ago. The author’s chapter about sea glass was fascinating and made me want to go out and start looking for it on the beach near home. As well tales from the sea, I really enjoyed the author’s journey through her pregnancy to motherhood. It brought back the fond and not so fond memories of my own pregnancy journey, making me smile, grimace and cheer the author on. This is a book that I read with Post-it notes at the ready to mark all the beautiful and fascinating passages throughout. If you’re fascinated by tales of the sea, it’s superstitions and it’s secrets you’ll definitely enjoy this book. Thanks so much to Canongate Books for my beautiful advanced copy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna Iltnere (Beach Books)

    Reading is physical. I put my head on the pillow, my cheek against the cool cotton, I turn the book in my arms from one side to the other and see how the silver bubbles on the cover shine like fish scales or tiny stars. I open the first page, fingertips slide over it, paper as soft as my bed, and I slowly sink in like a stranded whale in sand. My body feels heavy, I am ready to enter another world, I am ready to roll back in the sea and swim away. Reading is crossing a threshold. “It forgot what Reading is physical. I put my head on the pillow, my cheek against the cool cotton, I turn the book in my arms from one side to the other and see how the silver bubbles on the cover shine like fish scales or tiny stars. I open the first page, fingertips slide over it, paper as soft as my bed, and I slowly sink in like a stranded whale in sand. My body feels heavy, I am ready to enter another world, I am ready to roll back in the sea and swim away. Reading is crossing a threshold. “It forgot what being a dolphin was, until the tide came back in and it swam away and remembered,” Lucy Wood wrote in "The Sing of The Shore". I need to read to remember, and I need to be close to the sea, or even better in it, to become me. With first read lines a voice appears. Long and lulling like flapping waves are British writer Charlotte Runcie’s sentences in her beautiful debut book "Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea". It’s a book of stories, legends, myths and songs about the sea, and about women who are left on the shore to take care of the life on land, to wait and hope, while men are in the sea, and about women, who are as dangerous, powerful and mysterious as the sea itself, the mermaids, selkies, sea goddesses and witches. There’s something in Charlotte Runcie’s voice of late night gatherings around a fireplace to tell tales, while wind rattles windows. Something safe and inspiring like a voice of a loved one who reads you a bedtime story. Mothers, wives, daughters and grandmothers, a kinship through womb and blood, and milk, and sweat, and tears, and songs, and family recipes. It’s all there. Charlotte Runcie has lost her beloved Granny, and becomes pregnant for the first time in her life. “Odysseus was blown off course on his way home from Troy. He wanted to get home. I wanted to have an adventure. But I’m going to have a baby.” Throughout the book memories about grandmother are woven together with her own slow becoming a mother. Charlotte Runcie is a poet. Many sentences pierce the layers of the sea like pebbles thrown into the water. In some parts her writing thickens in a visceral reading experience, for example, in chapter about drowning in freshwater and saltwater, and about giving a birth. Descriptions of pregnancy are vivid and honest, and blend with lines about the sea like cut from the same fabric. Women bodies are so close to the sea, both ruled by the Moon in the sky. Not only women. Each of us spends nine months under water in an inner sea in our mother’s belly. This book can help to regrow our lost umbilical cord with the sea. When Charlotte gives birth to her daughter (chapter about labour is an absolute gem, it feels like a trance when you read it and it strongly evoked the feelings I had, giving birth to both my sons), her fear to lose freedom by becoming a parent has disappeared completely. She is filled with “deep blue love” towards the pink being, her little starfish.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shreya

    This book, very simply, casts a positively bewitching spell - weaving together myth, motherhood, and the mesmerising magic of the marine. The prose sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. It is beguiling to an extent that I felt as though I was floating along the brackish waters - being carried away to someplace mystical and irresistibly alluring; perhaps a remote island perched at the edge of civilisation - weightless and without a care in the world. Amidst the silverfish, shells, corals, and se This book, very simply, casts a positively bewitching spell - weaving together myth, motherhood, and the mesmerising magic of the marine. The prose sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. It is beguiling to an extent that I felt as though I was floating along the brackish waters - being carried away to someplace mystical and irresistibly alluring; perhaps a remote island perched at the edge of civilisation - weightless and without a care in the world. Amidst the silverfish, shells, corals, and sea glass glimmering and glinting in the waters - creating, as they do, a riveting and sublime kaleidoscope of images - I wholly lost myself...it was like a dream-induced haze of sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and feelings. The writing is exquisitely evocative in its description; the narrative is wonderfully compelling and immersive. I underlined far too many paragraphs to count - I know that I will come back to immerse myself in this treasure again and again. 

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)

    I made it a quarter way into this before I gave up. It felt like lots of research assignments mashed together with some autobiographical musing, but without a real direction or purpose. I can see others have enjoyed it, so maybe it’s just me but it felt flimsy and lacking in weight for a book supposedly about the ocean.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    This is part memoir and part love song to the sea that surrounds the island nation of Great Britain. Runcie talks about her own memories of the coast and about how other women have interacted with the seas around us. There's also discussion about how women of the sea such as selkies, sirens and witches have been represented by male writers and how for so long the sea was considered a man's domain. This was lyrical and beautiful and a pleasant read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julisa Perez

    The description was so beautiful but that’s where the beauty ends. She tried too hard. The author has serious potential though.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    This book made me cry, and gripped me, and made me laugh. But it also comforted me in this crisis (I will see the sea again, I will feel its cold touch once more), and it reaffirmed my theory that humans (specifically women) and the sea are mirrored and familiar.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    DNF - for now! Maybe I'll try again

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This book was a delight to read. I really enjoyed her writing style, and all the mentions of Scotland felt like home.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Gorgeous. Takes in mythology, biology, songs of the sea and women's history all within a framework of physical immediacy. Made me both laugh out loud and have a wee cry on a plane.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Puddister

    Lovely, quiet, haunting, meditative, soothing, stirring - some of the words that I would use to describe the sea and also this book. I tend to be much more of a fiction reader, but I've always been drawn to the sea, and Runcie's musings on motherhood, death, and women's relationship to the sea was a fascinating subject for me. Peppered with folklore and myth (the book is divided into sections named after the Pleiades), I loved the mix of historical tidbits about the sea, such as shell grottoes an Lovely, quiet, haunting, meditative, soothing, stirring - some of the words that I would use to describe the sea and also this book. I tend to be much more of a fiction reader, but I've always been drawn to the sea, and Runcie's musings on motherhood, death, and women's relationship to the sea was a fascinating subject for me. Peppered with folklore and myth (the book is divided into sections named after the Pleiades), I loved the mix of historical tidbits about the sea, such as shell grottoes and sea silk, as well as Runcie's personal writing about motherhood. This is a gentle book that leaves a powerful impact and I would love to read more from this author!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill Andrews

    4.5. A plethora of beautifully described snippets, anecdotes and wee stories of the sea in all its awesome physicality, myth-inspiring, superstition forming, art creating, song evoking, treasure generating, calm and stormy magnificence. Woven into the rhythms and pulls of pregnancy and birth, life and death. Wonderful, and resonates with my life on so many levels.

  16. 5 out of 5

    L A

    Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy. Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie is a wonderful exploration of women and the sea. Interspersed with Runcie’s personal experiences as a woman and her relationships with women in her life, in particular her grandmother, are writings about myths, folkore and superstitions linked to the sea as well as history, art, religion, literature, culture and the natural world. There is a Scottish focus for much of the book, particularly the East Co Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy. Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie is a wonderful exploration of women and the sea. Interspersed with Runcie’s personal experiences as a woman and her relationships with women in her life, in particular her grandmother, are writings about myths, folkore and superstitions linked to the sea as well as history, art, religion, literature, culture and the natural world. There is a Scottish focus for much of the book, particularly the East Coast of Scotland. I grew up in the Highlands of Scotland very close to the sea and have always felt its lure. Some of my ancestors were fishermen and many relatives both current and distant still live by the sea. The author explores other coastal settings in Scotland familiar to me such as Skye, the Scottish Islands, Edinburgh, and the coastal regions around Fife as well as other settings around the UK and the world. Basically, this book has everything I love in the world in it. The sea? Check. Links to myths? Check. Social History? Check. Folklore? Check. Experiences as a new mother? Check. Birds? Check. This book really sung to me and I think it would strike a chord with many women in their twenties and thirties who all too often can feel themselves a bit adrift. Towards the beginning of the book Runcie writes: “I am in my mid-twenties now, a time that should be spent finding out who you are, travelling, and going on adventures. One friend has moved to Australia; another to Canada. Facebook shows me university acquaintances who are now running marathons and securing dream jobs. I am doing none of these things. I don’t have any fully-formed dreams to work towards. In late-night panics I research possible careers that would require a completely different set of skills.” I feel I could have written this myself. I too agonise over all the things I should have done or should be doing and feel that mild (or not so mild) panic when I see the jolly good time that everyone else seems to be having. The author’s experiences with pregnancy also mirrored many of mine, the sickness, the worries, the hospital visits, the needlessly terrifying antenatal classes and the myriad hopes and fears that come with having a new life growing inside you. Will you lose your identity? Will something go wrong? What dreams will have to be sacrificed? Is it an ending or a beginning? What will change and what does that change mean for me? As well as the personal reflections, I learned a lot of new things reading this book. Of particular interest was learning about the production of Sea Silk, the history of Grace Darling and reading about Joan Eardly, an artist who did much of her work in a small village close to where I live now. It was those links that really enhanced this book for me. Interestingly, I also learned you have more chance surviving a near drowning in salt water than freshwater, who knew? The author also discusses the reality that all too often women’s skills, lives and experiences have been devalued throughout history and the current day. The sneering attitude towards motherhood (sadly in my personal experience most often from other women) is also explored. Runcie highlights a quote from Cyril Connolly: “the enemy of art is the pram in the hall” and I'd argue that this attitude is still very much alive and well. The constant push and pull of women’s expectations mirrors that of the sea, and throughout the book the sea is ever present with its ebbs and flows, tides, the moon, life and death. When you read this book, you will probably also feel a desperate need to go to every place mentioned and you WILL spend time falling into rabbit holes googling and researching all of the places and histories mentioned in the book. Aside from being a great personal read, this book would also make a wonderful gift. I will be buying copies for some of the women in my life too as there was so much in it that linked to the shared experiences women have, young and old, mothers or childless/childfree. It is also an interesting book for anyone interested in the sea, or Scotland in general. Just a wonderful, special book and one that I highly recommend.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katedurie50

    I never know how to classify this kind of book - part rooted in the natural world, part in highly specific personal experience, part contextualised through folk song, legend and mythology. But it all flows like its watery subject, and its prose is very attractive. An added bonus for those of us who are local is how much is about Scotland and particularly Edinburgh/Portobello, which it evokes beautifully. But most of us had a childhood past that encompassed fascination with and the collection of I never know how to classify this kind of book - part rooted in the natural world, part in highly specific personal experience, part contextualised through folk song, legend and mythology. But it all flows like its watery subject, and its prose is very attractive. An added bonus for those of us who are local is how much is about Scotland and particularly Edinburgh/Portobello, which it evokes beautifully. But most of us had a childhood past that encompassed fascination with and the collection of shells and sea glass, or trawling through rock pools, and those pleasures are recreated in ways the adult can appreciate.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Esme Burford

    At first, I was a little skeptical about this book and unsure of what to expect. I have never been a big fan of ocean literature despite the fact I adore water. For me, no author has successfully resonated with how I feel when I am immersed in water. Until now. I felt somehow connected to the book in a very profound way. If I am honest (and this is not a bad point FYI) I haven't yet made my mind up as to why. For that reason, Charlotte Runice writing style is unique, mysterious compelling and be At first, I was a little skeptical about this book and unsure of what to expect. I have never been a big fan of ocean literature despite the fact I adore water. For me, no author has successfully resonated with how I feel when I am immersed in water. Until now. I felt somehow connected to the book in a very profound way. If I am honest (and this is not a bad point FYI) I haven't yet made my mind up as to why. For that reason, Charlotte Runice writing style is unique, mysterious compelling and beautiful. I have always been fascinated with water and have always felt somewhat let down / lonely in my admiration. On this occasion Runcie did not fail me. She writes beautifully and explores what the sea means to us in every way, evoking fear, tranquility, beauty and ignited inspiration. I feel that the fact it is so beautifully written is a huge part of it's success. The scenes are so clearly depicted it's practically impossible not to be transported into her world. For me the book resonated with how I feel/felt about life in my early twenties about women who feel a drift in the ocean. After finishing the book I found myself desperate to visit the places she described. In my opinion. her writing style is convincible and emotive.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    Charlotte Runcie in her new book explores her personal connection to the coast, and does it in style. This book is just so beautifully written. From the moment this book begins, the lyrical nature of the writing really allows the scene to be set that Runcie creates. The shores of Scotland are painted stunningly by Runcie’s words and make for an incredible read. These words connect different writers and stories in such a gorgeous way throughout the book with the touch of the personal she brings. Charlotte Runcie in her new book explores her personal connection to the coast, and does it in style. This book is just so beautifully written. From the moment this book begins, the lyrical nature of the writing really allows the scene to be set that Runcie creates. The shores of Scotland are painted stunningly by Runcie’s words and make for an incredible read. These words connect different writers and stories in such a gorgeous way throughout the book with the touch of the personal she brings. With the intense description comes the very personal nature of the book. Sharing her memories through her connection to the ocean, Runcie makes a book that in moments reminded me of the rawness of books such as Heart Berries as there is a honesty here that makes for captivating reading. As someone who connects to the ocean and practically counts down the days until I can feel sand in my shoes again, I got this book a lot and it is a book that when it is released certainly is going on my bookshelf. (I received an ARC from NetGalley for honest review).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    Thanks to Canongate Books for sending me a review copy! This book is out today!! ❤️ Part memoir, part historical study, Charlotte Runcie presents a mesmerising exploration of the sea and what it means to us as humans. Her beautiful prose travels from the folkloric stories of "women of the shore" and their seafaring men to childhood memories of holidays by the sea on Skye to mystical places such as Rhossili Bay in Wales (which is home to a rock formation shaped like a sea dragon). ‘Salt on Your T Thanks to Canongate Books for sending me a review copy! This book is out today!! ❤️ Part memoir, part historical study, Charlotte Runcie presents a mesmerising exploration of the sea and what it means to us as humans. Her beautiful prose travels from the folkloric stories of "women of the shore" and their seafaring men to childhood memories of holidays by the sea on Skye to mystical places such as Rhossili Bay in Wales (which is home to a rock formation shaped like a sea dragon). ‘Salt on Your Tongue’ is a wonderful and vivid exploration of the salty wilderness of the sea, its soothing and healing powers and its role in different people's lives, especially that of women throughout the ages. I loved this book!!! Full-length review on my blog: www.theconstantreader.net/blog!! Go check it out. Thank you! 😊

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grace Nielsen

    This book is beautiful inside and out! I read this as an early copy late last year but was so happy to see the finished copies in bookshops this week with the gorgeous foil on the cover. Not my usual sort of read but I was intrigued by the the mix of prose story, myths, folklore and awesome sea shanties! This book is super readable, you can pick it up and down at your leisure. It is also filled with emotion and by the end you really feel as connected with the sea as Charlotte does even if you liv This book is beautiful inside and out! I read this as an early copy late last year but was so happy to see the finished copies in bookshops this week with the gorgeous foil on the cover. Not my usual sort of read but I was intrigued by the the mix of prose story, myths, folklore and awesome sea shanties! This book is super readable, you can pick it up and down at your leisure. It is also filled with emotion and by the end you really feel as connected with the sea as Charlotte does even if you live in an urban setting in South London 😆

  22. 4 out of 5

    Isabelle

    This is a beautiful book. Just like the author, I have always loved the sea. And apparently I love reading about it too. It's the kind of book that makes you want to write, to make sense of your own experiences. And it already made me take the children to North Berwick, which is beautifully described.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sackett

    I haven't been this emotional about a piece of non-fiction in years. This book is just breathtaking. Gorgeous prose, lovely mix of history and mythology and personal memory, incredibly evocative. I could taste the salt.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kris McCracken

    Look, the conceit is sound ("women and the sea"/ "pregnancy and parenthood as a dangerous journey"). While there are plenty of interesting factoids and digressions, but I found the prose a little florid for my tastes, and the whole thing did drag too much for me to really engage.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mika

    When you pick up a book with ‘women and the sea’ in the title, you expect the majority of its pages to be dedicated to that theme. This was far from the case with this book, which is ultimately why I was left so disappointed by it, despite the authors beautiful and immersive prose which, at times, if I closed my eyes allowed me to picture and hear the Fife seaside despite it being many miles away. This is ultimately a selection of essays exploring some very particular aspects of humans’ relation When you pick up a book with ‘women and the sea’ in the title, you expect the majority of its pages to be dedicated to that theme. This was far from the case with this book, which is ultimately why I was left so disappointed by it, despite the authors beautiful and immersive prose which, at times, if I closed my eyes allowed me to picture and hear the Fife seaside despite it being many miles away. This is ultimately a selection of essays exploring some very particular aspects of humans’ relationship to the sea (and one pregnant woman’s fascination with it), which when all brought together, I felt, lacked flow. The book is one-third memoire, and two-thirds musings and reflections of the seas, the myths, songs and artwork it has inspired, with and handful of pages dedicated to the coastal communities whose lives it has shaped. Each essay tended to be a bit shallow, and often left me wanting to know more. The stories sorely missing were those centering women, and I often got frustrated with the authors initial promise to bring forth women, when throughout the entire piece she mainly drew on the narratives and works of men. An important exception to this was the ten-page essay on ‘fishwives and cockle women’ (I mean even the name bares some reflection), which I enjoyed. There was also essays dedicated on the tropes relied on in female portrayals related to the seas (sexualisation, bringing bad luck, etc.), but given the sources these were still done through the male gaze and it would’ve been far more powerful had the stories by women (which exist in abundance) been brought to the fore. The fact that such a significant part of the book was memoire, and especially so heavily focused on the author’s journey through pregnancy completely blindsided me (funny that, given it wasn’t in the description). While beautifully written, why not mention it in the description? From an ethical perspective, consider who may pick this up: someone who can’t have children, who has chosen not to have children, who may of just have gone through a miscarriage, or abortion. This bothered me while reading throughout. I also can’t help but wonder whether the author believed that the memoire part of the book (which at times left out the sea completely) was enough to justify the books name? If this is the case, she seriously misconstrues the idea of representation, or has a terribly narrow idea of womanhood. While these are my own musings, the fact that I have to ask at all is problematic. Ultimately, descriptions are important in building a readers expectations, and with this book the author and editorial team seriously missed the mark. Finally, given the sad state of our oceans due to human behaviour, would it of hurt for the author to add some reflections on this? If one loves the sea so, surely a book one writes about it should be dedicated towards protecting it? So in summary: To those expecting this to be a work which undoes the historical invisibilisation of women in oceanic tales, leave this one on the shelf. Even to those expecting to just learn more about womens’ relationship to the sea in a broader sense, leave it on the shelf. To those keen on a memoire (one containing pregnancy), and a collection of essays of a person’s musings of the sea, this one may be for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Absolutely beautiful prose which is deep in feeling and knowledge. This has opened me eyes to the genre of creative non-fiction - a book that explores our relationship with the sea throughout the known world (though mainly Western or UK). You are pulled in - like the power of the tide - such lyrical writing would make a wonderful audiobook. It is full of traditional myths and tales, highlighting this important part of our identity and past that is nearly lost to us. My favourite chapter was 'Bit Absolutely beautiful prose which is deep in feeling and knowledge. This has opened me eyes to the genre of creative non-fiction - a book that explores our relationship with the sea throughout the known world (though mainly Western or UK). You are pulled in - like the power of the tide - such lyrical writing would make a wonderful audiobook. It is full of traditional myths and tales, highlighting this important part of our identity and past that is nearly lost to us. My favourite chapter was 'Bitter Drink' - highlighting the misogyny of the myths and tales beautifully. The mythical female sea creatures are dangerous because of their power and knowledge - a threat to the men who cannot control them - so they sexualise the female creatures to explain how they are able to remove all of men's agency and power. Like Sycorax, their power is unseen and unheard - their silence heightens their danger. This was a wonderful lockdown read - absolutely beautiful escapism - exquisite descriptions of nature - beautiful scene setting. I've never been able to put into words how much I love the sea and what it has meant to me throughout my life and this book wonderfully captured it. To have my love for the sea heightened by non fiction - I never thought possible. It was an empowering and uplifting read. Though it made me sad to think of the knowledge and perspectives that have been lost. Women have rarely been able to pass on their stories and tales - through prevention of literacy or being deemed dangerous/insignificant in their knowledge 4.5 out of 5

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bex

    This book made me cry within the first half an hour or so of reading. The author talks about being a little girl collecting shells and other flotsam at the beach, and wondering why the magic seemed to fade by the time the objects dried off and made it home in her pockets, and pondering how she might find a way to make the magic of the sea last, and take a little bit of it home with her. That was (and still is) me - as I sit at my desk surrounded by shells and pebbles collected on various shores. This book made me cry within the first half an hour or so of reading. The author talks about being a little girl collecting shells and other flotsam at the beach, and wondering why the magic seemed to fade by the time the objects dried off and made it home in her pockets, and pondering how she might find a way to make the magic of the sea last, and take a little bit of it home with her. That was (and still is) me - as I sit at my desk surrounded by shells and pebbles collected on various shores. So I had very high hopes. And I enjoyed the rest of the book, but it also felt a bit hit and miss for me after that. The author clearly has a great deal of medieval knowledge (Old English poetry is referenced fairly frequently), and as a medievalist myself I enjoyed her weaving two of my great passions together - the sea and medieval literature. However, everything else was flung in too - constellations, motherhood, grief, sea shanties, folk tales, personal memories... All this would be fine, and I usually enjoy a flowing narrative without too much rigid structure, but some of the connections drawn between some of these things felt a bit arbitrary, a bit of a stretch. There was also way too much Christianity peppered throughout for me - but that's just my personal taste. But it did make me cry a few times, and I did enjoy the author's honesty in grappling with new motherhood (and birth!). It wasn't quite the book that I'd expected or hoped, but it was an enjoyable read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    DJ

    I'm only going with 3 Stars, purely down to the fact that there was quite a bit more about actual childbirth rather than contemplative musings in advance of the event. Apart from this one critiscism, I found myself immersed back in the world of sand and sea from my younger life. I loved the knowledge of the culture and history of the sea that I have gleaned from this book. I am very glad that the sea and I bonded at a much younger age than Charlotte Runcie did... and I write this after a day spent I'm only going with 3 Stars, purely down to the fact that there was quite a bit more about actual childbirth rather than contemplative musings in advance of the event. Apart from this one critiscism, I found myself immersed back in the world of sand and sea from my younger life. I loved the knowledge of the culture and history of the sea that I have gleaned from this book. I am very glad that the sea and I bonded at a much younger age than Charlotte Runcie did... and I write this after a day spent walking by a stretch of sea I love. I would like to think that at somepoint she may write a book about seeing the Beach and Sea with fresh eyes as her Daughter begins to explore... not only to let me smile and ah but to encourage others to see what their young are missing out on... I remember a particularly hot night and being cranky and winding up on the beach with my Dad and my Kite ( An Eagle with a tail that to my young mind went on forever ) we eventually flew it standing waist deep in water... Thank You Charlotte Runcie, for releasing memories of joy filled times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rue Rutherford

    I’ve been listening to this as an audiobook, floating in and out of sickness induced naps. I have listened to it in the shower as I sit and soak my aching bones. This story I have carried with me through so many places. I have read it in the strangest ways, backwards and forwards and all the which ways. This book is sublime. This book is the kind we need hundreds more of and yet I have no idea how someone could write another like it. This book allowed me to inhabit my homeland that I ache for ev I’ve been listening to this as an audiobook, floating in and out of sickness induced naps. I have listened to it in the shower as I sit and soak my aching bones. This story I have carried with me through so many places. I have read it in the strangest ways, backwards and forwards and all the which ways. This book is sublime. This book is the kind we need hundreds more of and yet I have no idea how someone could write another like it. This book allowed me to inhabit my homeland that I ache for every day. Her prose on Scotland are so beautiful. Her use of nostalgia never feels too heavy or flowery. She has a wonderful point of view and it feels so new while still allowing you the reader to feel as if you are a close confidant that she is telling this all to. This book is so many things, most importantly, it is not too many things. The balance is perfect. The emotion is poignant but never overwhelming. It’s an utter triumph of a first work and I cannot wait to see what we get next. A must read for honestly everyone

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... I really didn’t know what to expect with this book. The blub intrigued me because I also have a fascination with the sea and myths and legend. I really loved this book. Its part memoir as Charlotte prepares to become a mother for the first time, recounting her fears and hopes and the changes her body goes through. It’s also about numerous myths and legends associated with the sea and especially women. She shares tales of selkies, sea monsters, human sacrif https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... I really didn’t know what to expect with this book. The blub intrigued me because I also have a fascination with the sea and myths and legend. I really loved this book. Its part memoir as Charlotte prepares to become a mother for the first time, recounting her fears and hopes and the changes her body goes through. It’s also about numerous myths and legends associated with the sea and especially women. She shares tales of selkies, sea monsters, human sacrifices made to sea gods and a whole range of fables. This is well-written, well-researched and such fun to read.

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