3rd January, 2019

Review: Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie - Canongate Books

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. 

What I particularly liked about this book was its mixture of personal experiences and reflections and its academically sound treatment of myths and folklore. As a literary scholar I enjoyed Runcie's evaluations of texts and authors of different epochs and frequently found myself smiling fondly at passages that reminded me of classes I've taught in the past. The reader is led, among other things, through tall tales of sea creatures, a short analysis of Beowulf, and the historical significance of sea shanties while repeatedly being referred to artists like Turner, Shakespeare or the Romantics. I also tremendously enjoyed the strong Scottish focus - as someone who travels to Fife at least once a year and loves the area and its history, the stories of the Forth affected me in particular and even answered a few questions for me that I had pondered for a while. Salt on Your Tongue is not just an exploration of the sea, however, but also one of new motherhood. Runcie elaborates on her pregnancy, her insecurities and on settling into a whole new life - something that will surely resonate with a lot of women. It definitely brought back memories for me. 

I already recommended this book to several people and it will probably be one of my go-to birthday presents for friends and family this year. If you love the sea, have an interest in folklore and myth and are prepared to have your bucket list of places to visit grow exponentially while reading this book, this is the perfect read for you. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

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