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Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  166 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Writers and artists across the centuries, from Chaucer to Ian McEwan, and from the creator of the Luttrell Psalter in the 14th century to John Piper in the 20th, looking up at the same skies and walking in the same brisk air, have felt very different things and woven them into their novels, poems and paintings. Alexandra Harriss subject is not the weather itself, but the ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 14th 2016 by Thames and Hudson Ltd (first published September 14th 2015)
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Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Weatherland is endlessly fascinating, a study of the representation of weather by English artists and writers from the earliest times till now. Alexandra Harris is an engaging guide to an engrossing subject and imparts enormous learning in beautifully elegant prose. Her responses range from the academic to the personal and make Weatherland a joy to read. The book as an item is beautifully produced, from the gorgeous jacket, to the powder blue boards, creamy paper and rich selection of ...more
William Shaw
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The kind of great books that leaves you wanting to read a dozen more books that are cited in it.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first half of this book but slogged through to the end.

The first part uses the merest scraps to reconstruct our ancestors' attitudes to the English weather, reminding me with every page just how different their relationship was to the seasons, the land and the sky. On every page there was a line that made me stop and reflect, often moved to the point of disorientation. And a diversion into the world of the London frost fairs is among the most mesmerising things I have read this year.
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: clouds
This is a beautiful book. The cover is gorgeous, the illustrations are fantastic, and it looks good on the shelf. So much so that I'm just going to go ahead and put it up there. It's not bad by any means: Harris has a clear and interesting voice, and is wisely insightful about how the weather is reflected in the arts in Britain. But there is no real narrative drive in the book--no impetus to turn the page, no real point other than the weather. Which is not a bad thing. Sometimes all you want to ...more
Kimberley Starr
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A literary and artistic history of Britain via it's weather. What an ingenious idea for a book! Lovely way to spend a hot summer's day reading, and a good way to add titles to my tbr list!
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is in the same genre of scholarly non-fiction as Robert Macfarlane's and Peter Davidson's various literary explorations of place and time, but, I would say, not quite in the same league as far as the actual writing goes (but then Macfarlane and, perhaps especially, Davidson, produce works of such consummate quality, that this need not be a severe criticism). As with so many academic works, the introductory and conclusory chapters are by far the best (with the very final sentence surely ...more
Andrea Engle
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
Brilliant revelation of how English literature chronicles English meteorology ... a fascinating study of English weather as the backdrop for English writings, as well as English art ... from Beowulf through Cowper to Shelley through Austen on to Dickens and Hardy and into the present, complemented by Turner, Constable, Whistler, and Hockney ... displays great breadth of learning ...
In the final chapter of this book Alexandra Harris identifies a new school of English writing. It is marked by a self-conscious return to nature at a time when people are increasingly alienated from it by the physical landscapes of cities and the convenient elisions of technology. I've read a couple of books in this vein, most notably Robert MacFarlane's Landmarks. Taking that book as representative, it is a style of prose writing influenced by poetry's quest for closeness of word and thing. ...more
Laura Degenhardt
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful journey through centuries of British art and literature examining references to weather. I started reading this during a long wait in the A&E department of my local hospital, and read for 8 hours straight without once losing interest in the text. As I read, I found myself hunting for a pen to mark the margins, and referring to the references as a rich resource for further reading. The final chapter is a useful introduction to ideas around the anthropocene and contemporary British ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The weather is the one the us Brits discuss, analyse, complain about and appreciate and yet sometimes we seem to take it utterly for granted. Harris has written a looooong book, a thesis really, on the British weather and how it has impacted culture over the centuries, affecting art and literature in so many ways. From the earliest illuminated manuscripts depicting farmers at work in all seasons through Wordsworth, JW Turner and beyond, the British weather has been a motivating factor in so many ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing work of much scholarship and even more passion. Some reviewers have said it bogged down half-way through. I say they didn't stick through for the entire miracle. The weather in England fairly swarms and swishes through the pages of literature and on to the canvasses that hang in great museums. Ms. Harris gives us new ways to look at all our old favorites and introduces us to classics we had skimmed or laid to rest long ago, makes us want to read them again just to see how the weather ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no bad weather. There is only just the weather in all kind of different ways. I specially liked the Anglo-Saxon stories, loving the word wanderer. I was surprised the man who first kept weather records for a long time, for just over sixty years, Thomas Barker, lived in nearby Lyndon. Of course Turner is also part of the story. Some parts on the contemporary history, such as the early morning shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4, was recognizable. After reading this book I even go and look ...more
Lisa Matriccino
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. If youre a weather lover, lit lover, and an Anglophile this book is your holy grail. It needs to be savored. I read one chapter a day to let it all sink in before starting another. Its as beautifully written as the literature it describes. Its also awakened in me a new appreciation for Beowulf and Chaucer. The history it imparts is as interesting and informative as the ideas about weather and people. ...more
Lee Barry
An exhaustively researched book about the depiction of the weather in art and literature. A beautifully designed book, chock full of paintings and illustrations. I really liked the use of light blue backgrounds on some of the sections, appropriately apples to The Great Frost and Cloudland. ...more
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. Alexandra has an intelligent writing voice that is both entertaining and informative. Capable of making you think as you read I found this book fascinating in it's scope and subject matter.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction
such a refreshing perspective on literature through the ages
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just beautiful. Read it if you love English literature, literary history, and Orlando. Harris is a gifted writer with a gorgeous sense of metaphor. One of the best reads of the year.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
enjoying this romp through English literature and it's relationship to weather,it's a bit Beowulf to Virginia Woolf,but great on the early Anglo Saxon s nevertheless,and their focus on cold,icy waves - and the warmth of the hearth/hall/fire instead of the light of the sun.Currently got as far as the Romantics and their obsession with wild weather, storms.Readable survey,also good on artist's response to the elements too eg Turner and light
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in primary and high school I wanted to be a weatherman. It never happened, but I'm still very curious about the weather and love looking at the sky. I read a review of this book in the NY Times several months ago and thought it sounds like an interesting premise. When I saw the book in a lovely indie bookshop in Sydney on Oxford Street, I decided to buy it then and there. The premise is that the author follows the mention of weather and what constituted good and bad weather in England ...more
Karen Charbonneau
What a delightful read. Who ever imagined that the English viewed weather variously during different historical epochs, especially in literature and in paintings. If you are a fan of English literature, from Beowulf through Shakespeare and into the Romantics and on, you will gain so much insight into your favorite classics by reading this book. Every evening I could hardly wait to crawl into bed and turn on my light - I had a hardback copy. There isn't a dull paragraph, so don't be concerned ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Een schitterend geschreven en geillustreerd boek. Wel voor de liefhebbers. Harris beschrijft de invloed van het Engelse weer op schrijvers, dichters en schilders over een periode vanaf de vroege middeleeuwen tot nu. Het wordt nergens saai, ondanks het feit, dat er niet echt veel gebeurt, wil je het toch uitlezen. Ik denk, dat je zo'n boek ook over het Nederlandse weer zou kunnen schrijven. In ieder geval over de invloed op de schilders.
Shelly Dennison
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Roughly chronological romp through how writers and artists have thought about and described the weather in their work. Highly readable with lots of useful quotations and illustrations. Illustrates our changing relationship with the weather and full of fascinating details.
Margaret Barnes
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I heard Alexandra Harris speak at the Budleigh Literary Festival. She is an accomplished speaker who wears her intellect lightly. Despite the broad canvas both in time and personalities, I found the book engrossing and has made be think about literature and art in a new way.
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erudite, smart, well-written - a fascinating blend of criticism and history. I love this sort of thing - tracing ideas, imagination, experience across time. Really well done.
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Troy Hodgson
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Mar 03, 2019
Laura Straka
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Dec 13, 2019
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