242 pages, no illustrations
When BBC Radio 4's Material World programme announced a search for the UK's top amateur scientist, little did anyone expect that the winning experiment would comprise one of our humblest garden pests. Ruth Brooks posed this question: Do snails have a homing instinct? The nation was gripped by the unexpected thesis and by Ruth's online diaries, which catalogued her trials and tribulations as she got to grips with these slimy little gastropods.
A Slow Passion is Ruth's story, with anecdotes and misadventures galore. What starts out as a ruthless vendetta against the snails that are decimating her hostas becomes a journey of discovery into the whys and wherefores of snail life.
When Ruth dumps a group of the worst offending snails in a far-off wood, she decides to paint their shells with nail varnish, just to see what happens. And guess what, they come back home. This is the beginning of an obsession that sees the grandmother-turned-scientist prowling about and pouncing on the snails in her garden, sneaking off on night-time missions to repatriate bucketloads of painted snails, reading up on the sex-life of snails (which turns out to be unexpectedly romantic) and, eventually, sending off the application to a national competition for home science.
With charming illustrations, A Slow Passion is a sweet, funny and surprising investigation into the hidden life of snails, which will change the way you look at the smaller (and slower) things in life.
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Ruth Brooks' career has been in education. For 35 years she worked as a home tutor, supporting challenging and disadvantaged children and enabling them to uncover their hidden talents. Her dormant interest in science only bloomed in her seventieth year. In 2010, inspired by a passion for gardening and ecology, she entered a talent search run by the BBC programme Material World, and was awarded the title BBC Amateur Scientist of the Year. She loves the countryside, walking by the sea and, most of all, playing with her grandchildren. She lives in Devon.