Watching a snail is not what you might think of as being the most exciting of human pastimes. Their slow movement is suggestive of the same kind of entertainment value as watching paint dry. Yet I found the observations described in this book strangely intriguing. The concept of 35,000 species of land snail quietly munching their way through life is mind boggling in itself. And those are just the ones we humans have bothered to document. It’s like a whole new dimension of life of which we are largely unaware – an alternative universe in which miniature beings glide about their business in the cool, moist hours of darkness, with only silver trails and neatly holed vegetables to advertise their nocturnal habits to the daytime giants with whom they share the land.
The book was recommended to me by a friend. It tells the story of a snail that was brought to the author when she was confined to bed with severe ME/CFS and describes something of the impact that this tiny being had on her life. The author makes relatively little reference to the assaults of the illness, yet her slow progress toward recovery is constantly mirrored by the leisurely movements of her companion. As time passes, she becomes increasingly attached to the snail and increasingly fascinated by its behaviour. As her health improves, this fascination leads her to research its habits.
So can a snail really be that interesting? Well, I found it so – from its 2640 teeth, through its solution to the need for dental care, to its ability to mend its own shell. It’s given me a greater appreciation for the snails that inhabit my own garden, despite their efforts to decimate the vegetable patch. Perhaps that’s partly because their slow pace of life is something with which I can identify.