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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

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 5 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.

  4. 5 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.

  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. 5 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.

  7. 4 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.

  8. 5 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).

  9. 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 To 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! 😊

  10. 4 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.

  11. 4 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 😆

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Shone

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Silence

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

  17. 5 out of 5

    Beverley

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  20. 5 out of 5

    Becca Daley

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Goodwin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Triggs

  23. 5 out of 5

    Saya

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeniflumper

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Pearson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Helen Childs

  27. 4 out of 5

    Felicity Lees

  28. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Torfs

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

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