Sara Maitland

One of six children, Sara Maitland grew up in Galloway. She took a degree in English from Oxford University, where she discovered socialism, feminism, Christianity and friendship. Having been married to an Anglican priest for twenty years, she converted to Roman Catholicism in 1993 and now lives a contemplative life in a house on a moor in Northern Galloway.

Sara’s first novel, Daughters of Jerusalem, was published in 1978 and won the Somerset Maugham Award. A Book of Silence, an autobiographical account of her attempts to lead a solitary life, was nominated for the Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize in 2009, the same year that her short story ‘Moss Witch’ was a runner up in the BBC National Short Story Award. She lectures part-time for Lancaster University’s MA in Creative Writing and is a Fellow of St Chad’s College, Durham. In 2004 Sara was listed as one of the Guardian’s ‘101 Female Public Intellectuals’.

Sara Maitland is represented at Jenny Brown Associates by Jenny. For all enquiries contact

Books by Sara

True North: Selected Stories

Comma Press, February 20242

The year all Europe’s acrobats relocate to Paris to help finish the Eifel Tower, two twin sisters accompany their fellow performers only to discover a completely different side to the city…

A bryologist enters a patch of ancient British woodland to research a rare strain of moss, but encounters an even more exotic specimen…

Two Inuit women learn to survive against all odds in the desperate cold of the Arctic Circle, that is until one day a stranger shows up…

Spanning over 40 years of writing, Sara Maitland’s Selected Stories brings together the highlights of a phenomenal career in short fiction. Traditional folk stories, myths and fairy tales are expertly modernised with feminist and scientific reworkings, by an acknowledged master of the genre. Drawing from classical, Norse, Inuit and other pagan mythology, these stories find folkloric archetypes alive and well in every conceivable modern context. Formally innovative, emotionally edgy and deeply imbued with a sense of landscape, they speak to our abiding concerns about humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and the friction between ancient ritual and modern neglect.

How to Be Alone

Macmillan, January 2014
Part of the School of Life series

Our fast-paced society does not approve of solitude; being alone is literally anti-social and some even find it sinister. Why is this so when autonomy, personal freedom and individualism are more highly prized than ever before? Sara Maitland answers this question by exploring changing attitudes throughout history. Offering experiments and strategies for overturning our fear of solitude, she helps us to practise it without anxiety and encourages us to see the benefits of spending time by ourselves. By indulging in the experience of being alone, we can be inspired to find our own rewards and ultimately lead more enriched, fuller lives.


Moss Witch: And Other Stories

Comma Press, September 2013

Each story in Sara Maitland’s new collection enacts a daring kind of alchemy, fusing together raw elements of scientific theory with ancient myth, folkloric archetype and contemporary storytelling. As the laboratory smoke settles, we are treated to a new strain of narrative: a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction, the atavistic and the futuristic. We’re also introduced to a weird and wonderful cast of characters: identical twins who fight bitterly day and night for purely quantum mechanical reasons; an expert on bird migration awaiting the homecoming of her lover on the windswept shores of the Hebrides. All the more remarkable is that each of these stories sprang from a conversation with a scientist and grew directly out of cutting-edge research. As befits their hybrid nature, each is also accompanied by an afterword, specially written by the consulting scientist to introduce us to the wonder behind the weirdness.

 Praise for Moss Witch

She has built bridges that may tempt new minds across to science. How ingenious
The Guardian

Remarkable… Refreshingly different… This collection abounds with revelations for writer, scientist and reader alike
The Irish Times

Simply dazzling; my woodland walks will never be the same
New Scientist


Gossip from the Forest

Granta, November 2012
North American Rights: Counterpoint

Fairytales are one of our earliest and most vital cultural forms, and forests one of our most ancient and primal landscapes. Both evoke a similar sensation in us – we find them beautiful and magical, but also spooky, sometimes horrifying.

In this fascinating book, Maitland argues that the two forms are intimately connected: the mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of the forests were both the background and the source of fairy tales. Yet both forests and fairy stories are at risk and their loss deprives us of our cultural lifeblood. Maitland visits forests through the seasons, from the exquisite green of a beechwood in spring, to the muffled stillness of a snowy pine wood in winter. She camps with her son Adam, whose beautiful photographs are included in the book; she takes a barefoot walk through Epping Forest with Robert Macfarlane; she walks with a mushroom expert through an oak wood, and with a miner through the Forest of Dean. Maitland ends each chapter with a unique, imaginative re-telling of a fairy story.

Praise for Gossip from the Forest

In this complex, enchanting book, Maitland combines a wiry retelling of traditional European fairy tales with piercing comments on folklore, history and superstition and a rich evocation of the deep, natural, gnarled life of ancient woodlands

The Times

Maitland is a wonderfully enthusiastic guide to her twinned realms… Her relish is infectious, and I suspect as well as hope her woods will see some new faces this year


As a follow-up to Maitland’s sublime The Book of Silence, it’s a worthy successor. As something to read on dark nights as the wind lashes the leaves from the trees, it’s damn near perfect


A playful blend of nonfiction and fable. It is both practical and symbolic, a box of tools and a box of delights

New Statesman

Lyrical, imaginative, a walk through the woods with Sara Maitland offers more refreshment than a vacuum flask of tea. … An enchanted spinning wheel of a book, it turns the world around it into gold


A Book of Silence

Granta, November 2008
North American Rights: Counterpoint

After a noisy upbringing as one of six children, and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland began to crave silence. Over the past five years, she has spent periods of silence in the Sinai desert, the Australian bush, and a remote cottage on the Isle of Skye. Her memoir of these experiences is interwoven with the history of silence through fairy-tale and myth, Western and Eastern religious traditions, the Enlightenment and psychoanalysis, up to the ambivalence towards silence in contemporary society. Maitland has built a hermitage on an isolated moor in Galloway, and the book culminates powerfully with her experiences of silence in this new home. A Book of Silence is a deeply thoughtful, honest and illuminating memoir about a phenomenon too often neglected in the contemporary world.

Praise for A Book of Silence

This is not a silent book, intimate and generous as it is…Nor did Maitland’s book leave me speechless. Instead, I found myself arguing, conversing, exclaiming at every page. I wanted to be with her every step of the way. And I can hardly wait to see what comes next from this marvellous writer, thinker, seeker

New York Times

Maitland is a bold adventurer and the rest of us, doubtless ill-equipped to deal with the emotional and intellectual challenge of self-sought solitude, are lucky she can give the condition of silence such an articulate voice


A Book of Silence grapples with ideas at the very heart of what it is to be human, and Sara Maitland is a joyous champion of the countercultural notion that silence is more than simply an absence of noise


This book is partly a cultural history of silence which considers fairy-tales and flotation tanks, solitary confinement and religious orders, but mainly it’s a beautiful and serene memoir about trying to find inner (and outer) peace in a cacophonous world. I adored it

The Bookseller