Writers & Artists Under English Skies

  1. Alexandra Harris
  • ISBN 9780500518113
  • 22.70 x 15.20 cm
  • Hardback
  • 432pp
  • With over 60 illustrations in colour and black and white
  • First published 2015

The story of English culture over a thousand years can be told as the story of changing ideas about the weather

‘Hugely ambitious, exhilaratingly written and handsomely produced’– Peter Parker, TLS - Books of the Year
‘A brilliant, beautiful and sensual book (and it is a lovely object, with its rich paper and fine illustrations)’ – The Sunday Times
‘Splendid … its glory is in the detail, in its recording of facts and lives, atmospheres and words, quirks of feeling and behaviour’– A. S. Byatt, The Guardian
'The British people love talking about the weather. This book should be their bible. Harris' paean to the power and elusiveness of the climate is as sparkling and refreshing as an April shower … Every page is a delight and beautifully illustrated throughout'– Times Higher Education
'Highly original'– Apollo

See more press reviews of 'Weatherland'

Writers and artists across the centuries, looking up at the same skies and walking in the same brisk air, have felt very different things.
In a sweeping panorama, Weatherland allows us to witness cultural climates on the move. The Anglo-Saxons lived in a wintry world, writing about the coldness of exile or the shelters they must defend against enemies outdoors. The Middle Ages brought the warmth of spring; the new lyrics were sung in praise of blossom and cuckoos. It is hard to find a description of a rainy night before 1700, but by the end of the eighteenth century the Romantics will take a squall as fit subject for their most probing thoughts.

The weather is vast and yet we experience it intimately, which is why Alexandra Harris builds her remarkable story from small evocative details. There is the drawing of a twelfth-century man in February, warming bare toes by the fire. There is the tiny glass left behind from the Frost Fair of 1684, and the ‘Sunspan’ house in Angmering that embodies the bright ambitions of the 1930s. Harris catches the distinct voices of compelling individuals. ‘Bloody cold’, says Jonathan Swift in the ‘slobbery’ January of 1713. Percy Shelley wants to become a cloud and John Ruskin wants to bottle one.

Weatherland is a celebration of English air and a life-story of those who have lived in it. As we enter what may be the last decades of English weather as we know it, this is a history for our times.

See the Contents Page

Alexandra Harris won the Guardian First Book Award and a Somerset Maugham Award for Romantic Moderns. Since then she has written a short biography of Virginia Woolf as well as many essays and reviews. As a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, she has presented programmes on subjects including cold, light and fireworks. She is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in Oxford and Liverpool.

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