Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie

Writing with an intriguing mix of beauty and straightforwardness, Charlotte Runcie explores women and the sea – and the extraordinary power that resides in both

Book Review by Rebecca Wojturska | 09 Jan 2019
  • Salt On Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie
Book title: Salt On Your Tongue
Author: Charlotte Runcie

What does the sea mean to you? Perhaps it’s childhood nostalgia, toes dipped in cold waves. Maybe it’s dread, the horror of dark watery depths. Or is it awe – at the people who have navigated it or the fabled beasties that lurk within? Whichever it is, Charlotte Runcie explores it all.

Taking the reader through the history of the sea, Runcie brings in mythology, shanties, sea creatures, literature and art, all the while informing us about lesser-known women who played important roles in these.

Despite the title, Salt on Your Tongue is sweet, a melodic exploration of the most elusive part of the world. Runcie writes with an intriguing mix of beauty and straightforwardness, with splashes of humour, to create a wonderful ode to the deep blue. It’s easy to get swept along as she weaves memories of her baby’s birth and grandmother’s death, and how these anchor her to the oceans. Yet, sometimes the book's flow feels disjointed, when the connection between Runcie's personal memories and the sea aren’t immediately apparent. However, the book  resembles a stormy tide: the swell of exploration, then the sudden pull away, leaving the raw experiences beached before us. 

Anyone who feels the lure of the sea will enjoy this book with its facts, myths and survival techniques. Although on the edge of over-romanticising, Runcie is self-aware. Salt on Your Tongue is an ode not only to the sea but to women – to the extraordinary power that resides in both.

Canongate, out now, £14.99