The pleasure travel books provide to those who want to recall a place they’ve been to, or who can’t afford to go to Tuscany but love to read about it, is vicarious and pure. If we are natives of the place, such descriptions give a less reliable pleasure. The foreign writers exclaim in delight or horror at things we take for granted, and notice things we’d rather overlook; they rush off to the sights we’ve always meant to visit – the Isles, the Desert, the Tower – and we’re ashamed to admit we haven’t been there yet; they can explain a great deal about our country to us, and yet somehow, somehow they don’t ever quite get it right, because they weren’t born here.
The lands Sara Maitland calls Silence are very close to the domains of Solitude – an archipelago, perhaps? The natives of both are called solitaries, hermits, recluses, loners, outsiders, quiet children, and perhaps most generically, introverts. As she points out, neither country is very well regarded these days. The idea