Book review: The Salt Path

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

-> Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

-> Plot overview: The Salt Path is an honest, inspiring, life-affirming memoir about a couple who get dealt a fairly rubbish hand at life and find themselves homeless at the age of fifty. The story follows as they use the last of their life savings to buy backpacks and decent sleeping bags and set off to walk the southern coast of England; from Somerset to Lands End and beyond.

This brave but impulsive decision to walk 630-miles came after learning husband Moth has a terminal illness with little time left and they lost their home and farm along with any kind of income.

-> Our rating: 5.5/10

-> Review: I wanted to love it, but instead I just liked it. There were a lot of lessons learnt from the book, for instance the sentiment behind making the best of what you have, however I felt we didn’t actually get to know Raynor and Moth all that well nor much about their family dynamic nor how they actually got themselves into that usual situation (i.e. loosing everything).

I wanted to hear more about the personalities they met along the way and I’d have been interested to hear how they dealt with the fact one half of this loving couple had a terrible illness that wasn’t going away. As the book is written from Raynor’s POV we didn’t hear about how Moth felt throughout this journey, but in learning more about the two of them as characters I wanted to know, for example, what sorts of conversations they had in the tent at night, and on the hours long walks they spent their days doing… we didn’t seem to get much of that.

It quite repetitive and at some points dare I say it, tedious. Understandably not a huge amount of adventure happens on a coastal walk with zero money to enjoy, however with each chapter I felt it just repeated the one prior – they walked, they camped, they ate noodles, they had no money. Whilst I appreciate that this is just life, I had hoped for something more.

The book does however make you think about a lot; what we have, what we need and what we think of others. It forces you to question what homelessness actually looks like. A number of people Raynor and Moth encountered on their journey prized themselves away when the couple hinted at the fact they were homeless, which sadly shows the very real stigma that still surrounds homelessness. The two most wonderful lessons from this book were how life can be rebuilt in the most unfortunate of circumstances, and the power of fresh air and the natural environment for our health and perspective.

Emotionally, The Salt Path pulls you in every direction. I feel bad criticising the book at all because both Raynor and Moth are inspiring and truly made lemonade out of mouldy lemons.

-> What others say? It’s clear others loved this tale; the book was shortlisted for the 2018 Wainwright Prize and the 2018 Costa Book Awards in the biography category. Judges have described The Salt Path as: “an absolutely brilliant story that needs to be told about the human capacity to endure and keep putting one foot in front of another.” In May 2019 The Salt Path won the inaugural RSL Christopher Bland Prize, which won Raynor and Moth Winn £10,000.

In September 2019 it was the number one bestselling book in UK independent bookstores.

-> Recommend to a friend? YES, for the life lessons.

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book review - the salt path