The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Tova Bailey

The whereabouts of snails under knee deep snow in Clydesdale in March 2018 is not known to me. One assumes there must be some survival strategy. Perhaps the little critters dream of a sun dappled terrace in Las Palmas Gran Canaria, having retreated within their shells and battened down the hatch for the winter.

Confined to barracks you could read about a woodland snail (Neohelix albolabris) in a book by Elisabeth Bailey. While a mysterious viral infection keeps the author bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail in a glass terrarium by her nightstand. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defences, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer. The result of her long observations is a highly detailed description of this curious little animal.

Of course, it’s not all about the mollusc. Reflection allows her to gain a greater understanding of her own confined place in the world. From the encounter, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating becomes a story of survival and resilience. A tiny animal can illuminate our own human existence and so Bailey provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

Read this alongside Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (reviewed by me here )

Check if these reflective descriptions of the natural world are in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

200 pages in Green Books

First published 2010

ISBN 978-1900322911

Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Scroll to Top