The Salt Path
There’s an irony that the first book available since lockdown for the U3A Book Group to which I belong is my choice along with another member and I can’t make our Zoom discussions for it! The Salt Path has been a book I’ve wanted to read since it was first published in 2018 because I’d heard such wonderful things about it. I’ll just have to share my thoughts here by way of a review.
Published by Penguin, The Salt Path is available for purchase through the links here.
The Salt Path
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
My Review of The Salt Path
Ray and Moth find their lives dramatically altered by circumstance.
My word. What a book. It’s going to be tricky to review The Salt Path because it’s a book rather unlike any other I’ve read. Part memoir, part history, travelogue or gazetteer The Salt Path is a blend of glorious description, medical insight and a true tale of humanity at its most basic and sublime in equal measure. It is also an intimate portrait of a marriage where love overrides everything else. What I so enjoyed too was that even though catalyst for the book arises out of momentous adversity, there’s still humour and positivity to be had. The ongoing theme of Moth being mistaken for Simon Armitage, for example, made me smile every time he was mentioned. Indeed, I loved every single syllable of this book.
Reading The Salt Path took me vicariously as far from my comfort zone as it is possible to be as I experienced Raynor Winn’s life so completely. The descriptive quality of her writing is quite wonderful so that I felt the sting of the wind, rain and salt on her journey with Moth. Familiar with the area Ray writes about, it felt to me as if I were with them both every step of the way, whilst at the same time I couldn’t imagine how I might have responded to life’s events had I been Ray. This is skilled writing indeed because it draws in the reader and compels them to read on even when they may be wary of the content based around Moth’s illness. I felt Raynor Winn’s depiction of nature had the quality of Gerard Manly Hopkins’ poetry as she painted a vivid image of the weather, the birds and animals, and the characteristics of the path she was taking, both literally and metaphorically. I was mesmerised.
The people Ray and Moth encounter as they walk are a striking cross-section of society and I found my attitude towards those who find themselves homeless sharpening and clarifying as I read. I think Raynor Winn has managed to make me a more thoughtful and understanding person through my reading – not just of those I meet and interact with, but of myself too.
Underpinning the journey is a depth of emotion I found incredibly affecting. There’s overwhelming grief and loss but, equally, uplifting joy and hope, so that reading The Salt Path made me reflect on my own life, what I’ve achieved and what I might still like to do. I have a feeling it is one of the most personally influential books I’ve read. I found The Salt Path an almost hypnotic read that drew me in until the last moment and held my attention unwaveringly. I loved it and am desperate to know what happened next for Ray and Moth.
About Raynor Winn
Since travelling the South West Coastal Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. She lives in Cornwall. The Salt Path was her first book and became a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and paperback. It was shortlisted for numerous prizes including the Costa, the Wainwright and the Stanfords Travel Writing awards.