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A Student of Weather

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,250 ratings  ·  166 reviews
From some accidents of love and weather we never quite recover. At the worst of the Prairie dust bowl of the 1930s, a young man appears out of a blizzard and forever alters the lives of two sisters. There is the beautiful, fastidious Lucinda, and the tricky and tenacious Norma Joyce, at first a strange, self-possessed child, later a woman who learns something of self-forgi ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published July 1st 2004 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,250 ratings  ·  166 reviews

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May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first arrived in Leeds for my master’s program in 2005, I met a PhD student who was writing her dissertation on Canadian women writers. To my shame, at that point in time I could literally only name one. Margaret Atwood. And I hadn’t even read anything by her yet. Fortunately, since then I’ve discovered more Canadian women writers in addition to Atwood, several of whom I admire greatly: Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Mary Lawson and now Elizabeth Hay.

This was her debut novel, shortlist
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canada
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suanne Laqueur
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
HOLY CRAP. This book was amazing. A little draggy at the end, like it couldn't decide whether to end, but I really didn't want it to end anyway. Just gorgeous.
Misha Mathew
Rated 4.5

I've sat down to write this review so many times since I read this book almost a month ago. Yet, I couldn't the words to correctly describe my thoughts about A Student of Weather. I still can't, but I will try. This is not a fast-paced book, if that's what you like. It doesn't even have a plot as such. In fact, the first few pages were a bit of a struggle to get into. But once I got past that initial hurdle, I could fully appreciate what a stunning piece of work this is, and how sadly
Connie G
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
The charming Maurice Dove is a botany student sent out to Saskatchewan to study the weather. When he walks into the Hardy home in 1938, he sets off a rivalry between two very different sisters. Lucille was beautiful, golden-haired, orderly and dependable. Norma Joyce was younger, darker, and a collector with a love of nature. Her natural curiosity is stimulated by Maurice's stories. Ernest Hardy, a widower, is a competent but distant man with a clear preference for one of his daughters. Maurice ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Elizabeth Hay is both a writer's writer and a consummate reader's writer--a word-siren, language mystic, narrative shaman, and spellbinding painter of prose. In this, her first novel, she creates a ballad-like story of contrasts--truth and deception, love and rejection, light and dark, faith and betrayal.

Two sisters, living with their widowed father, are a study of opposites. Seventeen-year-old Lucinda is lovely, tall, titian-haired, pliable, hard-working, dutiful, and light; nine-year-old Norma
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, canadian
Honestly, I should be giving this book 1 star, but I'm adding another star because it's Canadian and a lot of the book takes place in an often overlooked part of the country - Saskatchewan.

I just could not like any of the characters - they all irritated me and could not find any redeeming qualities in them to make all their frustrating aspects forgivable. And I just couldn't understand why Elizabeth Hay would allude to so much action yet to happen yet in the next paragraph brush over so many thi
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“For most of our lives the days pass waywardly, without meaning, without particular happiness or unhappiness. Then, like turning over a tapestry when you have only known the back of it, there is spread the pattern.”

Elizabeth Hay quotes author Jane Gardham as a lead-in to one of the sections of her brilliant and nuanced novel, A Student of Weather. It is an apt quote, because Ms. Hay is fascinated with patterns…from the most ancient to the most contemporary, from natural patterns to patterns of t
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canada
This book starts slowly. As a child in the first part, Norma Joyce is so annoying, so clingy, sneaky and needy, as to be unsympathetic and I wasn't sure how much time I would invest in the book. However, as the pages rolled by, and her life took such sad turns, I began to be more invested in her. Maurice was a truly horrible person, the kind of shallow, selfish individual who seems so attractive and charismatic on the surface but has no depth, no empathy for others. His abuse of Norma Joyce's af ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
A 3.75 really. :-) The quintessential quiet Canadian novel. The 1st in my #20BooksofSummer stack too.
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, canadian
Yet another re-read. Loved this the first time.

Oh, I still LOVE this book! Elizabeth Hay is a great talent.

"Two sisters fell down the same well, and the well was Maurice Dove."

Elizabeth Hay won the Giller Prize in 2007 for her book Late Nights on Air. I have devoured all of her works and adored each of them.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Achingly lovely. Achingly resonant. It's as if this book was written just for me.

This is instantly my favorite novel.
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This book makes me feel as moody as the Ottawa weather in early Spring mixed with the endless rain in Vancouver. Unluckily, the sun never came throughout the book.

The writing is beautiful and i don't regret reading it. However, the stereotypes strike me: with the soft conservative Scandinavian-looking sister being the beautiful one and the dark short Italian&Japanese-looking sister being the ugly sneaky one- and only makes a man want her - sexually! A feeling of a Hollywood blockbuster in the 8
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was very poetically written but very anti-climatic. By the time I finished it, I felt like I had wasted a whole bunch of time.
This quote by Lydia Davis starts the novel:
“But when there are two sisters, one is uglier and more clumsy than the other, one is less clever, one is more promiscuous. Even when all the better qualities unite in one sister, as most often happens, she will not be happy, because the other, like a shadow, will follow her success with green eyes.”
This is a story of rivalry and of obsession. Though not really a happy story, a bit dark at times, actually, it is still a story full of hope, dreams and de
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This is like two books, first half and second half, 5-star and 1-star.

The first half was phenomenal. I kept dog-earring the pages to remind myself to come back and read an amazing sentence, maybe copy it into my copy journal. The author used present tense in a way that mesmerized you. She also used foreshadowing in a way that slapped you wide awake. I loved that! I was ready to re-read the book before I'd finished it. Norma Joyce and Lucinda, I couldn't wait to see what happened to them.

Then the
Shirley Schwartz
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is totally mesmerizing. I really couldn't put it down. I was totally caught up in the lives of the two sisters Lucinda and Norma Joyce. The book begins right smack in the middle of the dustbowl 1930's on a Saskatchewan farm. This farm is where Lucinda and Norma Joyce were born, as well as Norma Joyce's twin brother Norman. Times were hard and all the country families pulled together to help everyone out. Norma Joyce's twin brother dies at the age of 2 and her mother when Norma Joyce wa ...more
Stacy K B
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kyle Webb
Saskatchewan, Canada, 1930s.
The cranky father: Ernest Hardy - The Sister: Lucinda Hardy - The Stranger (who brings the rain to the dusty prairie: Maurice Dove -
The Twin who died: Norman... The One Called Ugly, Strange, lazy: Joyce, remaned Norma Joyce after little Norman died.

Norma Joyce, comes to be the most beautiful child filled with imagination, even though everyone finds her to be ugly and unmotivated. She holds healing, learning and loving in her soul.

A story of two sisters, growing up
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Amazing story of love and lust, proving how men can take on two personalities and also how men are affectd by war. I felt really sorry for Norma Joyce and how her life panned out, and sad that she never received the love and respect she should have received from her father and the man she loved. I was disappointed by the ending, as I hoped Norma Joyce would find happiness, but the ending was very powerful in that it evoked those feelings of remembering a childhood place, and returning, only to b ...more
Leslie Shimotakahara
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Opening in the sultry prairies of 1930s Saskatchewan, this novel evocatively uses meterology, or the study of the weather, as a metaphor for the turbulence in two sisters' love lives as they fight for the same man's affections. I particularly enjoyed how the author avoids the cliches of a typical love story by exploring what happens when love doesn't work out for either woman ... My full review can be read at my blog, ...more
Aaron Shepard
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is my second time reading this book, as I wanted to revisit her descriptions of the light and landscape of the prairies. She has a talent for making you feel the passage of time from the perspective of the protagonist - a languid day that resonates throughout the book, or years that pass by at bewildering speed.
Zarya Rubin
Mar 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Set in the Saskatchewan dustbowl in the 1930s, this tale of two very different sisters and the diverging paths their lives take is masterful, engrossing, full of twists and turns about the choices we make and how our lives are so easily altered. Beautifully written.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was prepared to love this book, but while there are some beautiful, insightful moments, it just wasn't enough. I had to slog through it, like waist deep snow, and the best part was tossing it in my finished stack.
Mary Lins
Sep 23, 2019 added it
Shelves: complete
Recently some of my reader/reviewer friends were shocked to discover that I had not read any of Canadian writer, Elizabeth Hay’s oeuvre. These are readers I respect AND who know my own tastes very well. So I decided to start with her first novel, “A Student of Weather” which was published in 2001 and won several awards. (Also, I’m a sucker for a good “sister” story!) I loved it!

Set in Canada, it is the story of two sisters, Norma Joyce and Lucinda, and starts in 1938 as snow covers a town hollo
Abandoned. I made several attempts at this but found reading it a real chore. It probably didn't help that I found the main character intensely irritating. No rating as I didn't finish it.
Roger Brunyate
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Naturalist

There is fiction and there is life, and the two are different. Typical fiction is articulated by its story, whether the grand heroic moment or the slow journey to some conclusion. But natural life continues after the novelist's conclusion, and most of it—untidy, sometimes surprising, often quietly satisfying—is far from heroic. It has taken me two books to realize it, but Elizabeth Hay is a novelist of this second kind, essentially a naturalist. She is interested in what happens, e
Dani Richardson
May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: readwomen2014
I know it isn't possible to only read novels that I enjoy, and that it isn't fair to only review these works either... so here goes. I was given this book by my SO's mother, as she and her husband downsize to move later this month. I was completely enamoured by the book cover, which featured a simple design with a black and white photograph of a young woman (shown only from the torso down) on a rock surrounded by ferns and water. Lovely!

Then I delved into the text and became progressively less
Janet Gardner
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up at a library sale, judging it solely by its cover. Bad me. But, wow, am I ever glad I did. In 1930’s dust-bowl Saskatchewan, eight-year-old Norma Joyce Hardy, suffering (invisibly to her family) in the throes of an early puberty, falls hopelessly in love with 23-year-old traveling scholar Maurice Dove, who has come to the prairie to study the weather, and who, frostbitten and in deep distress, knocks on the Hardy family’s door one desperately cold winter evening. The young Dove ...more
Rebecca Rosenblum
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
According to my Goodreads list, I haven't read a novel that was both for adults and actually structured like a novel since April, so maybe that's why this book totally blew me away. But actually, I think it's just that strong a book. Magical-seeming narrative voice shifts from omniscient to 3rd-person-limited gradually over the course of the book, no compulsion to solve or settle plotlines, just a genuine fascination with the characters and their lots in life. I'm a fan of Hay in general, but I ...more
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
A well told, well written conflict between Id and Super Ego where no one wins exactly, but the losses result in a collection of pretty sublimations. I think it's also a parable of East and West, the powerful and elegant Central Canada represented by Maurice and the uninhibited, devious (Norma Joyce) and beautiful yet Spartan (Lucinda) Prairies.
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From Elizabeth Hay's web site:
"Elizabeth Hay was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, the daughter of a high school principal and a painter, and one of four children. When she was fifteen, a year in England opened up her world and set her on the path to becoming a writer. She attended the University of Toronto, then moved out west, and in 1974 went north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. For th

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