Friday 3 June 2016

Review: Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies

Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies by Alexandra Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You can tell when someone is English, as they will talk about the weather whenever possible. They will study the weather forecasts for the glimmer of hope that a sunny day offers and are as surprised as the experts in the Met office when it rains. In this book, Harris takes a detailed examination of the responses to the wide variety of weather and the seasons that authors and artists have had over two millennia. Early Roman mosaics have been discovered with seasonal details, and ancient Saxon writings have lamentations on the coldness of exile and their writing talks about how many winters old people were. Focus on particular details of the weather, such as storms, birdlife, rain clouds and flowers, fascinated different eras in turn. Harris has unearthed all sorts of treasures; a fragile glass with a silver rim, last used at the frost fairs when the Thames regularly froze over, the scowling face of Winter in a Roman mosaic and chart for predicting the weather for the year ahead.

Harris has written a dense tome, but thankfully not an unreadable one. Each chapter is packed full of detail for each era, subject and individual covered. Her readable prose is enhanced with excellent reproductions and photographs, as we have come to expect from the art publisher Thames and Hudson. This makes this not only a pleasure to read, but it is a joy to hold and look at too. A very good book that can be dipped into time and time again.

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