Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris

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Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris

Category: Reference
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: Both a celebration and an examination of the British people's long standing obsession with weather, Weatherland goes far beyond the lightweight reference book that it could be, but is a deep and fascinating journey through our history and culture, guided by our oft grey skies.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Thames and Hudson
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0500292655

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The story of English culture over a thousand years can be told as the story of changing ideas about the weather. A sweeping panorama, Weatherland explores how writers and artists, looking up at the same skies and walking in the brisk air, have felt very different things. A journey through centuries and cultures, Harris walks the reader through misty moor and foggy fen, lays with them on bright sunlit beaches, treks with them to stormy summits, and introduces them to a fascinating cast of writers, artists and cultural figures along the way.

A 2010 study showed that 94% of british people had talked about the weather in the last six hours, with 38% having talked about it in the past 60 minutes. It's a national pastime and a national obsession. It's so wonderfully variable, that it's a constantly easy topic for conversation - many an awkward silence has been broken by a desperate cry of Lovely/Terrible Weather we're having!. It's fairly astounding though, to see how much it has influenced and driven British artists and cultures.

Author Alexandra Harris has previously written about Virginia Woolf, and it was in one of my favourite books, Orlando, that Alexandra Harris was given the inspiration for this book. Woolf uses the ever changing weather as a fascinating device to guide the reader through the centuries in which Orlando lives - and its this same shifting weather that guides the reader through Weatherland - and it's written not just as a guide, but as a memorial to our weather and climate that seem to be changing beyond all recognition.

Beginning with a depiction of the weather in a Roman mosaic, all the way through to 20th century artists such as Benjamin Britten and Ted Hughes, encountering figures such as Milton, Donne, Chaucer, Defoe, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats - the list is both surprising and almost endless, but Harris manages to make interesting and inciscive observations on every single one. No mere reference guide, this is a book packed with knowledge, enlightened observations. I felt a little like I was standing on a large hill, overlooking the shifting weather in the company of some of the greatest figures in our culture. It's a superb book, a cultural and historical guide that delves into incredible depth whilst remaining a read that one can pick up at any time, with fascinating insights and facts on every single page. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I would recommend While Wandering - A Walking Companion by Duncan Minshull. A suitable companion to Weatherland, it's a compendium of writings from some of our greatest authors, guiding the reader around our beautiful landscapes in our invariably changing weather.

Buy Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris at Amazon.com.


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