Monday 31st January, 2022
Sara Maitland, A Book of Silence (Granta, 2008), 282.
Image: Engin Akyurt, Turkey, instagram.com/enginakyurt
This quote is from Sara Maitland's A Book of Silence (Granta, 2008), 282. Having always wanted to be a writer, Sara read English Literature at Oxford in the late 1960s and is well-known for both her fiction and non-fiction. This book, which would perhaps better have been called A Book of Solitude, weaves an exploration of different understandings of silence with the story of Sara's own engagement in extended periods of time alone in the desert and on a Scottish island - see here. Other than this book, Maitland is perhaps best known for her first novel, Daughters of Jerusalem (Henry Holt, 1978), which won the Somerset Maughan award when she was just 28 - see here. Since then, Maitland's quirky fiction has been primarily within the short story genre, often basing her narratives around myths and well-know fairy tales. My own favourite is 'After Life' from Far North & Other Dark Stories (Maia Press, 2008) - see here. Written from the perspective of the dead St Cuthbert, this story gives a wonderfully funny account of the 400 or so years it took to transport his body from the Farne Islands to Durham Cathedral, where it now rests. The title story of this book was also made into a very dark film of the same name, starring Sean Bean - see here. A feminist theologian, Maitland has also written a variety of works based around her Christian faith. Her incredibly evocative and moving short stories about each of the Stations of the Cross (Continuum, 2009), accompanied by challenging images from Chris Gollon - see here - is a highly recommended but challenging read. After an Anglican upbringing and 20 years married to a vicar, Maitland was received into the Roman Catholic church some years ago. She currently tutors the MA in Creative Writing for Lancaster University and writes monthly columns for The Tablet, an international Catholic news weekly publication - see her articles here. She lives with her terrier, Zoe, on a remote moor in North Galloway, Scotland. Sara has her own website, with a listing of many of her books, plays and other works, here.