My book review of 'Sea Bean' by Sally Huband

by Sally Huband
Sea Bean
by Sally Huband

Neither the title nor the cover design drew me in, but when this memoir was recommended to me by two different people, I thought I must give it a try, and I'm very pleased I did!

Sally Huband, her husband and young son move to Shetland. Shortly afterwards Sally gives birth to their second child only to find herself debilitated with rheumatoid arthritis. So begins her new life exploring this often wild and bleak landscape.

The sea bean is a seed which falls from a vine in the tropics and is carried by ocean currents across the Atlantic to the shores of Western Europe. It's considered lucky to find a sea bean on the shore, and in some places it's thought of as a magic charm.

As the author struggles to come to terms with motherhood, the loss of her career in nature conservation and her chronic illness, she takes us beachcombing.

And quoting Amos Wood, she tells us how she learns too that 'Beachcoming is not what you find, it is what you hope you will find.'

She tells us about the messages in bottles she's discovered, the fortitude of Shetland women ('we're tough because we have to be'), and warns us about the challenges facing the natural world, not least the situation with plastics which have infiltrated the food chain, clearly evident in the wildlife in Shetland.

I have to admit that I have been a little obsessed by Shetland this year. I've been working on a number of articles about people who have made their home here, or who have spent some time gaining inspiration from its landscape, and I do like the idea of island living, too. So I was hooked on the premise of this book from the outset. What would make you want to start a new life in such a remote, often hostile location, and how would you cope?

The author writes honestly and engagingly on the range of subjects she covers in the book and I loved it. I'll turn to it again, I think - perhaps if I make my way to Shetland one day!

Date of this review: November 2023
Book publication date: 6th April 2023