One of my favorite authors is Charlotte Macleod, (now deceased), and my favorite books by Macleod are those in the Professor Peter Shandy series. Peter is “professor of Agrology at Balaclava Agricultural College and co-developer with Timothy Ames of Brassica napobrassica balaclaviensis, that super rutabaga which has brought fame to the college and wealth to its propagators.” (Do you begin to get the idea that, at times, this author can be, not only funny, but hilarious, with some of her “funnies” not (in my eyes, at least) appropriate for quoting in this family-oriented blog?)
As the Mcleod novel, WRACK AND RUNE, opens, Peter’s new wife, Helen, is planting petunias along the walkway to their home. (These petunias, upon request from Helen, were specially bred by Peter so their color would match the brick color of the house.) It’s June, and they are discussing the weather: “And what is so rare as a day in June,” quotes Helen. (James Russell Lowell.) “A drink on the house in a Scotch saloon,” says Peter. (Fred Allen.)
Other than the distracting fact my Scottish Mother-in-law would have bopped Fred for saying “Scotch” (a drink) when he meant “Scottish,” this got me smoothly into thinking about weather in books. And, in life.
I guess everyone here knows about current weather patterns, not only in the world, but here in the United States. For some time USA citizens have read about drought and famine in countries that seemed far from our borders. We probably felt sympathy, but perhaps not empathy. And now empathy has hit us in the chops. Right? It sometimes as if nothing teaches us compassion and care for others as much as a disaster close to home. I think of this as I look at brown pastures, and at forests with an increasing number of brown/tan trees among the fading greens.
We are really feeling the weather these days. 100-degree plus days. Drought. Pastures empty of cattle. And on and on . . . . A friend commented that she was busy watering gardens and shrubs. We have few Nehring-planted shrubs in Spring Hollow, and, at this point, no remaining garden other than a few brave asparagus fronds still showing green here in our small clearing in the Ozarks forest. “Well,” I said to my friend, “we aren’t watering much. After all, you can’t water a whole forest.”
Turning away from what’s outside our doors, maybe we’ll now have time to read. And what would YOU rather read in this kind of weather? How about: “Summer in Benteen County, Kansas, is a season possessed of all the gentle subtlety of an act of war.” Those are the opening lines of MAD DOG AND ENGLISHMAN by J. M. Hayes. The first page is guaranteed to make the daintiest female sweat. (No, not “glow” as someone suggested as a more gentile word for sweat.)
On the other hand, would you rather read about Jim Qwilleran falling into a snowdrift in Pickax (north of everywhere) in a novel by Lillian Jackson Braun, or one of Wm. Kent Krueger’s novels that opens with a white-out blizzard? (Go get an afghan for me, please, I’m reading.)
Interesting to notice how skillfully many authors use weather to take us into their stories, introduce us to the coming danger, and have us shaking with cold (fear?) or sweating nervously as we pull the blinds.
Note to me: Gosh, I must have more weather in my future novels!)
Can you think of novels where weather plays a huge part–where it helped you feel the plot? Come to think of it, tell us especially about the cold weather ones!
A “glowing” Radine. http://www.RadinesBooks.com