A Book Of Silence

Granta,Sara Maitland

Published: 3 August 2009
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781847081513

A serious, important and deeply engaging book, describing the risks and resources of silence.


After a noisy upbringing as one of six children, and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland began to crave silence. Over the past five years, she has spent periods of silence in the Sinai Desert and the Australian bush and on the Isle of Skye. She interweaves these experiences with the history of silence told through fairy tale and myth, Western and Eastern religious traditions, the Enlightenment and psychoanalysis, up to the ambivalence towards silence in contemporary society. Maitland has built a hermitage on an isolated Scottish moor, and the book culminates powerfully with her experiences of silence in this new home.

About the author

Image of Sara Maitland

Sara Maitland is the author of numerous works of fiction, including the Somerset Maugham Award-winning Daughters of Jerusalem, and several non-fiction books about religion. Born in 1950, she studied at Oxford University and currently tutors on the MA in creative writing for Lancaster University. She lives in Galloway. More about the author


A Book of Silence grapples with ideas at the very heart of what it is to be human, and Sara Maitland is a joyous champion of the countercultural notion that silence is more than simply an absence of noise’



‘A serious, important and deeply engaging book, describing with equal honesty the risks and the resources of silence. In describing her own exploration of these, Sara Maitland prompts some very uncomfortable questions about the fear, the shallowness and the lack of attentive listening that so effectively keep us prisoners.’ Archbishop Rowan Williams

‘An elegant, autobiographical but nonetheless learned reflection on the author's pursuit of silence through retreat into solitary rural living’ Keith Kahn-Harris

‘Her artful book, mixing autobiography, travel writing, meditation and essay, describes her route away from urban brouhaha towards increased solitude ... Her book demands to be taken on its own terms as the vision of a highly educated contemplative who is alert to Western culture's distrust of loners and strong-minded enough to dismiss her critics with a wave of her cigarette’ Michele Roberts

‘Her dedication to the cause is both inspiring and shocking ... There are many beautiful meditative passages in her meditation on silence ... [A] wonderful, salutary book’

‘It is both an analytical, theoretical fascination and a personal one, her reading and her experience locked together, each testing and illuminating the other’

‘Maitland's experience has been rich and thorough, and deeply enviable. Her book is probably unique in its subject, and timely, because good, healing silence is becoming hard to find, and we may not know we need it’

‘Rather than fearing the self-sequestrated state, as most of us are encouraged to do, Maitland set out purposely to embrace it: during the course of her rapt, introvert's pilgrimage she lived in bolt-holes as far apart as the Isle of Skye and the African desert, before coming to rest in one of the remoter crannies of the Scottish lowlands’ DJ Taylor

‘The acclaimed feminist charts her journey from noisy metropolis to isolated Scottish moor, providing a lesson in using linear narrative as a structure upon which to hang grand ideas’

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