Since finishing the final page of The Salt Path last year, I’ve been waiting to find out what happened next. The Wild Silence is, in my opinion, even more marvellous. I loved the walk that structured her first story, not least because it’s all such familiar terrain. But this is perhaps a more structurally complex book, darting as it does in and out of Ray and Moth’s youthful courting and the early days of their marriage before returning to their ever-fragile present. The poignancy of what they have shared, both on the walk and in all the years before, compared to what Ray stands to lose with Moth’s decline makes this a very moving account of a marriage.
Threaded through this account of what happened next is the author’s real sense of a world under threat – the value that she and Moth take from being in nature is obvious, but she is also making wider points about what we face. Not long after the publication of The Salt Path, she and Moth are offered the chance to manage a small farm near Polruan, to oversee the introduction of a vision of biodiverse cider and sheep farming. This part of her narrative had me tearing up with optimism – there’s an obvious link between the land’s potential recovery and Moth’s incurable diagnosis of CBD, one of the key motivating factor that got them out onto the South-West Coast Path in the first place. Slowly, as with the first story, we see small signs of change for the better, however long that is able to be the case. The details of the land’s small incremental improvements had me smiling as I read – this is what Winn does so well as a writer.
This is a book that reminds you of the need to stop and look, to live kindly, and to not take things for granted. There’s a real sense of fortitude and hope here that makes you straighten your own back a bit and to take the stairs two at a time. I felt incredibly emotional at the end of it, not least because, as with the first book, you’ve learned so much about Ray herself here. She’s a very honest writer, it seems, and despite all the difficulties she and Moth have faced, her story is just so wonderful.