Cover Image: The Weather Woman

The Weather Woman

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Member Reviews

I was entranced by the story of Neva, the Weather Woman, who can mysteriously sense and predict the weather. Her relationships with family and friends were well drawn and believable and I loved her growing and changing friendships as she grew up. I also enjoyed the Regency setting which meant that Neva wasn’t taken seriously as a woman so had to take on a male persona to be listened to.

An interesting story that plays with gender, love, gambling and fortune. A recommended read.

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This started off well and was lots of fun. Frost fairs on the Thames, chess playing bears and people gambling on the weather.

Then I felt it lost its way a bit in the middle and went more into a series of love stories which was more predictable and not as entertaining as the first part of the book.

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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What a great book! A fantastic hictorical fic, set in Regency England. I loved the writing, it was immersive, I was hooked and I had to read half the book in one go!

I found Henri one of the most sweetest characters ever and I loved Neva as well.

Expect romance, will contesting, marriage proposals, grief, and greatest Showman vibes!

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Neva Friezland was born to parents who ran a travelling show, and from a very young age was familiar with a world in which trickery and illusion invited fortunes to be won or lost on a wager. But the luck of her parents ran out amid the chaotic aftermath of the Thames Frost Fair in 1789. If only they had listened to tiny Neva's warnings... For Neva has been born with a rare talent - an ability to predict the weather.

Adopted into an unconventional household where her intelligence and thirst for knowledge are encouraged, Neva learns the brutal lesson that for a woman to desire anything beyond marriage and motherhood in Regency England is to court censure and contempt. She longs to be able to put her innate talent to use, as her weather predicting skills could be potentially lucrative, but to admit her uncanny ability openly could be very dangerous.

In order to obtain the freedom she wants so badly, Neva adopts a male alter ego to go where women cannot, and do the things society deems unsuitable for a lady. She and her clockmaker father also employ a little trickery and illusion to find a way to allow Neva to use her talents through the conduit of an automaton called The Weather Woman. All is going well for them, until their success attracts the attention of some very unwelcome parties who want what they believe they are owed... and until Neva falls in love while disguised as a man.

It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time, especially if you are a woman.

I was first introduced to the marvellous books of Sally Gardner some years ago through her Carnegie Medal winning historical fiction story I, Coriander, so I am overjoyed that she is now writing for an adult audience. I loved her winter fable The Snow Song and could not wait to immerse myself in her spell-binding writing once more with The Weather Woman.

Where do I even begin to tell you how amazing this book is? Once again, Gardner pours her considerable creative skills into a story that blends historical fact and enchanting fiction into a compelling tale that highlights injustice - this time, about a young woman with rare gifts that she must keep secret, for fear of being damned by suspicion and the strictures of the time in which she lives.

Neva's start in life is a hard one, but she is lucky to fall in with people who nurture her and recognise her intelligence and, in time, the uncanny abilities she possesses - and they love and cherish her enough to know that the things she can do must be kept hidden. Gardner uses the need for secrecy to fashion this tale into one which burgeons into an adventure encompassing everything I love about historical fiction, threading it with a delicious touch of magical realism, and using the themes of trickery and illusion to utmost perfection. And yet, this story also brings with it a gritty exploration of the social mores of the time, delving particularly into the attitude towards women, and the gulf between those who exercise power in all its many facets and those who are exploited by them. It is a winning combination.

There is so much atmosphere in this story that brings time and place alive, with the whisper of the other-worldly, and the way Gardner uses water as a character in itself alongside the many vivid human (and canine) players is wonderful - especially the way life revolves around the Thames. The pages are filled with wonder, mystery, romance, and derring-do; and subversive threads of gambling, rebellion, sex and sexuality (and intriguingly the negative effect of humanity on the environment) that carry you along on the gripping tide of twists and surprises that hold you fast and keep you guessing - and there is a nod to Shakespearean storytelling that made me smile.

Behold a myriad of themes around manipulation, control, and the dark side of human nature, especially when it comes to the treatment of women, that stir your emotions to simmering rage. I very much enjoyed how this story is used to explore how the power of women can be usurped by men, and there is something so poignant, and curiously metaphorical, in the way Neva hides her skills behind the illusion of an automaton. It was not easy to be a free-thinking woman in this era. However, this is also a story that thrums with love, both romantic and of family, contrasting the lives of those who get to enjoy the benefits of warmth and affection and those who do not, and this feeds into almost every aspect of this story - whether it be the dark machinations of those driven by greed and revenge, the need for human connection, or the consequences of both disappointments and successes.

This story kept me turning page after page as I wondered how Gardner would ultimately decide the fate of every single character - and I was not left wanting. There is a breath-taking climax to it all too, as she brings everything full circle to another Frost Fair in a way that is truly magnificent. One of my books of the year!

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The science of predicting the weather, mundane you may say but this novel takes this as its inspiration and weaves an intriguing and intricate story set in England in the 1700s. This is a beautifully crafted story and I can honestly say I really loved it.
Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for ARC copy.

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An interesting take on a period story, The Weather Woman captivates readers as she does her audiences in the Regency salons of London. You are transported to Regency England, and mix with all classes of London. The characters are full of life.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read The Weather Woman.

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This is a unique, enchanting and atmospheric historical novel.
Set in London. it begins at the frost fair on the river Thames in 1789 with three year old Neva and her parents. Neva has a special talent, she can read the weather and can hear the ice as it begins to thaw. After tragedy strikes her family, little Neva is taken in by a clockmaker who understands that Neva has a special gift.
This is a very well written, well researched book with a well drawn cast of characters and an engrossing story line. It has been one of my favourite books of 2022.
Highly recommended!

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A wonderful historical fiction novel, this book is beautifully lyrical and atmospheric, particularly in the descriptive way Neva understands clouds and the weather, as well as the people she meets
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Neva is a brilliant character, she is unique and sees the world as no one else. I loved her relationship with Victor Friezland and the immediate connection he has to her. I would also love to see the mechanical Weather Women they created, they sound incredible!
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The book explores the attitudes towards women in the Regency period. Neva knows she will be ridiculed as a woman, but dressing up as a man allows her to enter into philosophical and scientific conversations. As a reader you root for Neva to be able to stand tall as the wonder that she is. Her relationship to her male disguise Eugene is interesting, as they become two people within her, and allow her to explore so much more than she is able to as a single woman
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This book is full of interesting characters, and the family created of lonely and broken characters is so beautiful, and I was sorry to leave their world behind
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If you enjoy historical fiction with a touch of magic and mysticism, this one is one to pick up
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Thank you to Head of Zeus, NetGalley and Sally Gardner for the chance to read this beautiful novel.

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I’ve read a fair bit of historical fiction this year but I have to say that this one might just be my favourite! You can tell that the author did their research on the time period for this incredible book with the level of details that are included in the world building. I got through this book in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down, the story in itself was hooking, but the actual writing and descriptions were what kept me completely glued to the pages. I felt fully immersed in this world and could easily imagine being there right alongside Neva.

If you’re looking for a new historical fiction read that’s as addictive as it is spectacular then look no further than this gorgeous gorgeous book.

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Who knew a book about interpreting the weather could be so all-consuming? "The Weather Woman" is a lovely and empowering read. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the characters and didn't want the book to end. I particularly appreciated the ways in which the women felt free to express themselves sexually, despite having to conform to gender norms in public. Definitely a book I would read again, and recommend widely!

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I was sent a copy of The Weather Woman by Sally Gardner to read and review by NetGalley. This is an engaging and absorbing novel. It starts out reading like a fairy story and the becomes so much more. The characters are well rounded and I thought very believable and the descriptions of the clouds, the landscapes, the interiors, the clothes – everything really, all conjured up fabulous images in my mind. Even though I enjoyed the book from the start I got really invested in the lives of the players and though I really wanted to find out what happened I didn’t want it to end! A great read for anyone who loves imaginative, evocative historical novels.

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Neva is rescued by a clockmaker from an uncertain future. Her uncanny ability to predict the weather develops as she grows up, but because she is female, her skill and intelligence aren't allowed to be aired.

Her adopted father (the appropriately named Victor Friezland- a refugee himself) builds an automaton through which the predictions can be made in shows which intrigue the wealthy segments of Georgian society.

However all it not as it seems amongst the rich with abuse and gambling rife. Life can pivot on one wager made for good or evil. We meet a dissolute lord and an orphan from the French Revolution. How will their stories intertwine with Neva's?

Neva herself has to take on an alter ego to get on in this male dominated world, so gender identity is one theme that is explored. The link between Nature and human life is another theme . The weather then, as now, has a direct influence on human life and there is the subtext of global warming, as Neva observes the first pollution caused by human industry. Change is afoot in many areas of this world from weather, to politics to love.

There is love which is genuine between the characters although not all of it fits the mores of the times- some of which are shown to be hypocritical.

Having just read another novel which was less skilfully written , this story set off at a pace with great dialogue,
a range of memorable characters and story lines. Sally Gardner knows how to mix a touch of "magic"/supernatural with gritty reality.

Really enjoyed this book. A romping adventure which is thoroughly absorbing.

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Neva Friezland and Eugene Jonas face the vagaries of early nineteenth-century London together, in a truly lovely story about love, friendship, families - and the weather.

With orphans, young girls in danger, careless parents and tensions between the aristocracy and the lower classes, there is so much to love and to learn from this novel, set between the frost fairs of the 1800s.

This is a lovely novel that took all my attention, I was completely invested in the story, There are so many well-drawn characters, especially the women, and between them all you get a great picture of the life people lived.

Well-written and carefully drawn, this detailed story tells so much about London, about people, and about hope.

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This story read like a classic with a fantastical twist. The writing was easy, and flowed so well that I found it hard to pause reading. I felt strongly for the characters, whether I loved or hated them. I could really delve into this book and get lost in the story. The only wish I had by the end was that the second half of the book wasn’t as rushed. I really enjoyed the slow paced story telling within the first half and by part 3 I felt the pace speed up. I could’ve stayed in Neva’s world much longer! Overall, I loved it and will be getting a physical copy at some point.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the copy!

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The fact the heroine of the book, Neva, can predict the weather might give you the idea this is a book with a strong element of fantasy. However, although Neva’s gift is inexplicable, it seemed to me she just has a different way of seeing the world. In fact she struggles to comprehend that others cannot read the clouds as she can. ‘Her gift, she thinks, outdoes rational thought, making her an island utterly disconnected from others.’ Her gifts don’t stop with forecasting the weather because she also perceives people’s emotions in the form of colours – what we might now describe as synesthesia – and is a chess prodigy.

Initially her weather forecasts are treated with sceptism but gradually the person she has come to think of as her father, Victor Friezland, realises her predictions are always right. You could bet your house on the fact that if she says it’s going to rain at a certain hour on a certain day, it will. However Regency England isn’t ready for someone who can predict the weather, and certainly not if that person is a woman. And received ‘wisdom’ is that the weather is a product of chaos, not something that can be predicted by scientific, or any other, means.

Although constructed with the best of intentions in order to protect Neva’s identity, Victor’s Weather Woman automaton turns her predictions into purely a source of entertainment – or means of personal gain – for the aristocracy, not something that could be of genuine benefit. ‘Again she thinks of mariners who sail into storms and ships that are wrecked on rocks. What use is this gift, what use? she asks herself.’ And Neva longs to discuss her views with others, especially her observations on the impact of human activity on the weather. ‘I think perhaps the vapours produced by the industries of men can change the colours in the sky.’ However, as we are frequently reminded, this is a world run by men. As a result, Neva adopts a male persona – Eugene Jonas – whom she thinks of as her ‘second skin’, allowing her to go where a woman cannot. However, as it turns out, the brilliance of her disguise has unintended consequences.

From the early focus on Neva’s weather forecasting ability, the later part of the book introduces a mystery element and a number of romantic story lines. Some of these are incredibly touching and may leave you slightly tearful on occasions. The colourful cast of characters gives the book a real Dickensian feel with some of my favourites being Ebenezer Ratchet and his dog, Old Bones, and the formidable fixer-in-chief, Mrs Dent. I also had a soft spot for the lovelorn Mr Gutteridge, Victor’s legal advisor. And I particularly liked how the author included a number of characters in unconventional relationships (for the times) such as Mr James, who advises Neva on how to convincingly pass as a man, and Lady Elizabeth Wardell. There are characters for whom you will feel sympathy and those for whom you will feel no sympathy whatsoever.

There are wonderfully whimsical elements to the book, such as a chess-playing bear and a bet involving a live herring. There are also brilliant descriptions of London life including the frost fairs on the River Thames that open and close the book. All in all, The Weather Woman is a delightful historical novel with some unforgettable characters.

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A look at the potential in lives, both realised and unrealised. Neva is orphaned at a young age, but fate provides her with foster parents who are the equal to, if not superior, to her original parents. She grows up in a clockmaker′s home, but in this world of automation she has a fantastical talent of being able to accurately predict the weather. This and her cleverness in other areas is accepted and encouraged, to the extent that she is allowed to dress as a boy (and then a young man) in order to be able to attend lectures and such like.
Her accuracy in weather forecasts is used by her father to win some money through a bet, and this sets in place a series of events which included the creation of The Weather Woman. This is an automaton which enables Neva′s forecasts to be passed off as as a wonderful machine instead of exposing her to the censure of society. But other stories split off from this creation: a dissolute lord who gambles too much, an orphaned French count who falls in love with Neva, a son who is looking for recognition as well as money.

There are lots of strands in this book and they seem to have an underlying theme of how the past affects the present, and how things might have been different, and how sometimes they can be fixed. All the characters, even the villains, were given moments of redemption, and a perspective where they might have been a better person. Because of the Regency setting I found a slight touch of Heyer in the writing, but there′s also a dreamlike feel to the writing. It captures some of the essence of the time without delving into the nitty gritty. I found I enjoyed the book more as it went on and we found out more about different characters and how they were connected.

I had a copy of this book early through Netgalley

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This is an excellent read, so different to the usual genres. Around at the moment I’m not sure it fits in any genre really.
Superb writing, excellent characterisation and wonderful storytelling just made reading this such an enjoyable experience. It is such an unusual story, and though set in historic times in London, it is written in contemporary language. Sometimes I forgot that it was an historic novel, because of that.
There are so many different strands, including other-worldly characters, and has a hint of the supernatural too. It’s all beautifully woven together to make an amazing and unusual story, I could not put the book down. Several days after finishing reading, it is still buzzing around in my head! Always a sign of a superior novel, I find. Read it for yourself, you will not be disappointed.
I will look for more of this author’s work.
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my advance copy of this book.

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What a fascinating story, I was transfixed by this book and became very involved in the lives of the characters. It is a fascinating mix of history and fantasy, beautifully written and a really captivating story. Written in the first person, it had a wonderful narrative of events around London's Frost Fairs. It touched on gender issues and women's roles in society in the early 19th century, this was written with real insight and feeling.

The characters were vivid, deep and very well-written. These complex characters and lives were mesmerising. I loved how I really got to know them; their personalities, their traits and their complexities. I loved Henri the most, I think but there were plenty of characters in the story to both love and hate. I really liked Neva, I liked her determination despite all the setbacks she faced.

This is certainly different with a unique story line and I loved reading it. I found it hard to put down and was disappointed when it finished, always a good sign. I would highly recommend reading The Weather Woman, you won't regret it.

Historical fiction with magical, mystery

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I was enticed to read The Weather Woman by its setting alongside the Frost Fairs in Georgian London. I wasn’t disappointed – Sally Gardner took me there straight away and on to life in the Friezland house in Southwark where I found a family built on warmth and kindness rather than the legal ties or blood relationships which had served all of the residents poorly.
Neva can predict the weather. She sees and hears things that others cannot, walking among the clouds. Apart from its starring role in Neva’s predictions, the weather is central to the story – storms destroy buildings and people, and the imagery uses the language of weather throughout the book.
Neva’s talent might be supernatural but all else is matter of fact and believable so if you’re not sure you’re keen on magical realism I’d urge you to read on. That said, it made me think about the people that deal in this kind of thing – fortune tellers, mediums. Just because some are frauds doesn’t mean they all are. And being a fraud now doesn’t mean you didn’t once do it for real – the spirit might be fleeting.
Whatever the story, it’s the characters that keep me interested in a novel. There’s a real mixture of personalities here among the chosen family and beyond. Some of the relationships are star-crossed, some unlikely, some parasitic; there is one particular unexpected alliance where the balance of power is not clear.
I think it’s hard for a woman in historical fiction these days not to be railing somehow at the strictures society puts upon her. The creation of Eugene Jonas is a clever way of allowing Neva into places a woman might not be able to enter or where she would be too conspicuous. And Henri’s deliberations about his feelings run true to the notion that we fall in love with an individual rather than a type.
There are some lovely descriptions; I particularly liked Mrs Dent’s force of personality likened to her having ‘a wooden spoon that stirs up company, smoothing out any lumps in the conversation’. And Aubrey finds a ‘remark scratches at the thin walls of his sanity’.
One measure of how much I enjoy a book is if I find myself sad when a character dies or has something dreadful happen to them; or if another has deserved good fortune and a happy ending. I definitely felt that here, but I won’t blurt spoilers. And it’s not too obvious – I exclaimed out loud at one point when someone made an unexpected appearance. I’d recommend this if you fancy being transported back a couple of hundred years to an odd-looking house by the Thames.

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The Weather Woman by Sally Gardner
This book opens during a Frost Fair on the River Thames. Neva’s Russian father has a stall of the fair where his bear takes on all comers at the game of chess. Unbeknownst to everyone sewn inside the bear is his brilliant wife; capable of beating anyone at chess. Neva is just 3 years old and she is terrified for she can hear the voice of the ice and knows that it is about to break.
Following a disastrous event at the inn in which her family are staying Neva is left alone in the world. Only able to converse in Russian when she encounters her saviour, in the form of Victor Friezland, extraordinary clock and automaton maker. In regency England her skills in predicting the weather are untapped; for who would believe a mere woman! Her adoptive father imagines a way of protecting his daughter but capitalising on her amazing skills.
This is a beautifully evocative novel and the era definitely comes to life through the fashions worn, the wonderfully detailed description of Victor’s house which is made from a ship, the gambling dens and brothels of the underbelly of London. There are those who would make use, for their own ends, of Neva’s prodigious talents and Victor has to find a way to protect her.
There is also a nod to our current climate crisis as Neva describes the damage wrought on the skies by the pollution from the factories of London. Her descriptions of the colours and patterns of the sky are beautiful. I loved this book and will be thoroughly recommending it at my book groups. Many thanks to Sally Gardner, The Publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read it in return for an honest review.

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