Weather by Jenny Offill
Published by Granta Books, 2020
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Weather is generally described as a climate change novel, and whilst this isn’t technically untrue, it’s also not entirely reflective of what you can expect from it. There is, in fact, very little plot to speak of. Instead, the book has a stream of consciousness vibe, structured more like a series of vignettes that give us tiny snapshots into the thoughts, moments, and feelings that occupy our narrator, Lizzie’s, mind. With Lizzie being largely a blank canvas, however, she could be interpreted as something of an everywoman; the vessel through which Offill presents us with a state-of-the-nation report.
Our narrator has just started a job answering emails for a podcast focussed on climate change (hence why this is often flagged up as the book’s supposed focus), but really this serves as an in to the book’s presiding theme: How and why should we carry on with the mundanities of everyday life when society as a whole appears to be doomed? This is clearly a huge question (not to mention a particularly prescient one given recent real-life developments), so I wouldn’t have expected Offill to hand us all the answers. That said, I found the book too lacking in focus to discern any notable commentary, and it left me wondering what, if anything, she wanted to say. For a book that appears to be all about the now common experience of living with a constant undercurrent of dread, I would have expected to at least feel some kind of emotional connection.
Far more prominent than the climate change thread, I’d say, is the narrator’s ongoing concern for her brother, who is a recovering addict. Again, she could have dived a lot deeper, but I thought she captured this second-hand anxiety and sense of familial duty pretty well. There are also fleeting references to the current political landscape, and the marked increase in racial and religious tensions, which firmly establish this as a book of the here and now.
I don’t have much else to say about this one, which possibly speaks for itself. I had no real complaints about it, but it left me entirely lukewarm. On the whole, I’d describe it as a book that is far more compelling in concept than execution. It’s excellent in establishing a clear and relatable sense of time and place, but too scant on narrative or character development to engage in a memorable way.
You can pick up a copy of Weather from Book Depository by clicking here.
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