This is a riveting and quirky book, beautifully written, entertaining and profound. Impossible to classify, it is part travelogue, part witty and devastatingly open autobiography, part review of the experiences of silence of people as diverse as early Christian desert hermits, 20th century yachtspeople and Buddhists.
Mid-life, Maitland chose to place silence at the centre of her life and she explores what this might mean for her in late 20th Century Britain. She addresses challenging issues, such as the fear of what might happen in silence, and practical issues such as earning her keep.
To my mind, she doesn't always get it quite right - her fascinating discussion of voice hearing that sometimes happens in silence does not distinguish between hearing 'inner voices' of guidance and 'outer voices' made by the wind , for example. Her description of silent Quaker worship doesn't quite grasp that this is a listening silence, in which the worshippers' active 'listening towards God' is more important than any spoken word. But these are small points in a huge work, and I would thoroughly recommend this book as a good read for practitioners of silence and others alike.
Maitland articulates beautifully much that is not spoken of in our society , including the importance for everyone of having enough silence in our lives. The book is is not an invitation to silence as such, but offers insights and many possible paths for readers to follow. I can think of several very different people for whom it would be a great present!