In her late forties, after a noisy upbringing as one of six children and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland found herself living alone in the country, and, to her surprise, falling in love with silence. In this fascinating, intelligent, beautifully written book, Maitland describes how she set out to explore this new love, spending periods of silence in the Sinai desert, the Scottish hills, and a remote cottage on the Isle of Skye.
Maitland finds her experiences both euphoric and dark, mirrored in the accounts of others who have encountered silence from explorers and mystics to long-distance sailors. And in a wonderfully confiding, witty voice, she delves deep into the rich cultural history of silence, exploring its significance in fairytale and myth, its importance to the Western and Eastern religious traditions, and its use in psychoanalysis and artistic expression.
Maitland’s journey into silence holds surprises and setbacks, but mainly reveals a deepening happiness. Her story culminates in her building a hermitage on an isolated moor in Galloway, and as she guides readers through experiences of silence in this new home, she evokes a sense of peace that includes the reader in its intimate tranquility.