June 2019 On the weather as a setting

June 2019

The weather is a tease, a sly joker, easing in the arrival of summer with sultry days and balmy evenings. We retire with a glow, a smile, a good feeling about tomorrow, wake up to driving rain and wind and a temperature cut in half.

Rain and wind, cold and heat – they influence our lives, control our decisions. Do we go for a walk, or stay at home; picnic in the park or eat in a restaurant; paint the decking or attack the dust on the bookcases?

Similarly, climate affects fictional characters, their mood, motivation, the turn of the plot. To imagine Wuthering Heights set anywhere other than a wind-swept, rain-lashed Yorkshire, or Camus’ L’Etranger without the searing heat that leads to murder, would be unthinkable.

Authors use weather to create a scene, give a character a reason to behave in a certain way, fuel the atmosphere in the novel. In Holding On Letting Go, a summer storm brings two characters together in a wild, drenching rain dance, giving Chris the opportunity to flirt with Jo, asses her reaction to his advances. Later in the book, the heat of August in south west France leads to irritability, oppressive thoughts and stagnation in a relationship.

The weather can be a backdrop or a powerful influence. ‘Don’t open with the weather.’ I’ve read that statement many times. Fortunately, there are many examples in classic and contemporary fiction that successfully challenge this advice.

Jo snatched her hat from the lounger and headed out of the gate. She knew she wouldn’t be going far, the afternoon heat was too intense, the sun and the cloudless sky oppressive. After a few paces, she was forced to slow down.

The rough tarmac shimmered in the heat. She kept to the shade of the trees, but there was little relief, so at the end of the lane she stopped. The road to the village was in full sun, the return, a steep climb. It would be madness to continue. Jo sat on the edge of a stone trough planted with a glorious tumble of red and pink geraniums. The house beyond the planter was a handsome building in warm stone with a pretty barn. There was no one around although a sizeable tabby cat, looking very similar to the one she had noticed from time to time at Hannah’s, lounged under the evergreen hedge. Poor thing, Jo thought, encased in fur, struggling to find a cool spot. She looked at the dust between her toes, eased out a stone that had found its way between her sole and the leather sandal, felt completely miserable.

Extract from chapter 17

Holding On letting Go