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.
Paul Cheney 4/3
Salt On Your Tongue: Women And The Sea by Charlotte Runcie
Canongate Books 9781786891198 hbk Jan 2019