Friday, September 18, 2015

Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you

This is an intriguing review, of a book on the role of the weather in English arts and literature. I've always had a soft spot for literary atmosphere, from Dickens's fog and mud onwards. Readers of The Raven's Seal will know that winter and summer, snow, shine, and cloud, all have a role in that novel also. It's easy to mock the pathetic fallacy in fiction, but I find myself falling back on what you might call the soft pathetic fallacy. Setting, tone, atmosphere count heavily for a reader's sense of immersion, and weather bears on us and alters mood and perception in a singularly direct, sensory way. This is a vital tool in the descriptive writer's toolkit.

Of course, not every funeral takes place in the rain, and lovers don't always meet in storms or sunshine, but in A Hangman for Ghosts, the weight of the antipodean summer stands in for the oppressive machinery of the prison colony administration, while the bright light of the sun only serves to make the shadows of murder darker.

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