The Weather Woman
by Sally Gardner
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Pub Date 10 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 10 Nov 2022
Head of Zeus, Apollo
The rich and atmospheric new novel from prize-winning author Sally Gardner, set in the 18th century between the two great Frost Fairs.
Neva Friezland is born into a world of trickery and illusion, where fortunes can be won and lost on the turn of a card.
She is also born with an extraordinary gift. She can predict the weather. In Regency England, where the proper goal for a gentlewoman is marriage and only God knows the weather, this is dangerous. It is also potentially very lucrative.
In order to debate with the men of science and move about freely, Neva adopts a sophisticated male disguise. She foretells the weather from inside an automaton created by her brilliant clockmaker father.
But what will happen when the disguised Neva falls in love with a charismatic young man?
It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time. Especially as a woman.
Praise for The Weather Woman:
'A historical story with a refreshingly modern twist, The Weather Woman paints an intriguing portrait of life in the early 1800's, and what it was like to be a woman way ahead of your time' Heat
'Magical storytelling... A fresh take on the Regency novel' Good Housekeeping
'Superbly written and wonderfully atmospheric... A triumph!' Caroline Lea, author of The Glass Woman
'Lashings of adventure, suspense, warmth and wonders... I was completely captivated' Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule
Praise for Sally Gardner:
'[A] dab hand at literary world-creation' Observer
'Rich and haunting historical fiction' The Bookseller
'A glorious love story, a spellbinding fable' Adele Parks
'A truly original voice' Spectator
'Sally Gardner has a rare ability to build worlds that are rich, strange and totally unique to her... A story that will enthral you from beginning to end' Absolutely South East
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 55 members
This is a real page turner and the character of Neva is well portrayed. I have read other books by Sally Gardner, and though they were good, this is the best novel so far. She has a fresh and original style of writing, in my opinion, and I mean that as a compliment, accompanied by historical research which is excellent. This author keeps on getting better, and I highly recommend the book.
I loved this fresh, original idea. I was completely immersed in the time period and so different from the usual Regency stories. Neva is a wonderful main character, full of spark and wit and I over the romance element too. Would highly recommend.
Gambling dens and wagers, courtship and romance, society scandal and intrigue abound in this period piece set in Regency England – where science meets the supernatural.
Enter our protagonist – a woman blessed with the ability to forecast the weather accurately via an automaton – a moving mechanical device resembling a living creature.
It’s a well-written drama that captures the culture, sights and sounds of the period. Conversely, feminism, gender fluidity and what feels like a nod to <i>The Queen’s Gambit</i> combine to provide a little contemporary flavour.
A strong recommendation for my Book Club and Year 12 pupils!
My thanks to NetGalley and, as ever, Head of Zeus for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
A wonderful novel. ooh I loved this. Quite magical and Christmassy in a way with the frost fairs.
A woman who can predict the weather - well men don't like this of course. She goes against the grain and it's wonderful to read.
A fascinating regency novel that plays with gender in a gorgeous historical romance. Sally Gardner, as ever, writes brilliantly- so this is a great read
A charming regency novel is full of magic, and vivid enchanting characters who push the social, gender, and cultural boundaries of their time.
Little orphan Neva finds a new home with a sad clockmaker. He is a man of science and agrees with the importance of young women having a breadth of knowledge and, unlike many fathers who see the education of girls as unnecessary, he takes enormous pleasure in educating his daughter. Neva also has a gift, an extraordinary ability accurately to foretell the weather. She also thinks she’s been born into the wrong time, not necessarily the wrong sex.
A beautifully written story full of warmth with inventive and special protagonists.
Neva has a unique talent - she can predict the weather. However 19th century London is no place for a woman of her talents and inclinations.
This was a fresh idea and I greatly enjoyed the writing. Life in regency London with its sights and sounds, restrictions and attractions are beautifully drawn.
Neva initially has to hide her talent and uses her fathers automatons to bring the Weather Woman to the drawing rooms of London society. She longs for more and wishes to be able to learn and express her theories with the freedom of a man.
I was really interested in how this book portrayed gender fluidity as Neva becomes Eugene to move freely in society as a man does. I felt this gave the book a more modern resonance despite its 19th century setting
The cast of characters was great - charming, eccentric, single minded or depraved - they all helped build a rich world - one that I would think about even when I put the book down.
Special mention for Henri, a man ahead of his time in allowing Neva to be herself. Must confess I fell a little in love with him myself.
A great read with fabulous historical details, fantasy and a good dollop of romance.
Huge thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the chance to read an advance copy
This story is full of atmosphere, and engages from the offset. A tale of orphans, fortunes gained and lost, love and friendship held together by characters as richly drawn as in any Dickens novel, with sympathetic weather to boot. The weather woman is a gift, real or just a trick of entertaining machines? The phenomenon takes nineteenth century London by storm, the truth behind it a mystery to most. A remarkable young woman is at the centre of all this, making her mark on those who meet her, changing beliefs and shaking up society’s norms.
I loved this book, and was desperate to plough through, but didn’t want it to end. The characters are so richly drawn and some of the writing is pure poetry. Nature’s uncontrollable force, and wild ways are shown to be, if not controllable, then at least surmountable and possibly predicted. We are kept guessing to the very end as to the survival of the good, and the defeat of evil.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this novel: I'll confess I've not been overwhelmed by her previous adult novels, and the setting can be a bit cliched. However, I was wrong. I was taken aback and delighted. The simplicity of Gardner's narration really works, and I loved the way that apparently predictable characters/tropes were turned round.
Ultimately, this isn't a novel about magic, or even about neurodiversity. It is, above all, about love.
Sometimes it feels like novel ideas are like the proverbial buses - you wait a long time for one and when it does, several other follow in quick succession. That's a little how it felt going into The Weather Woman - historical fiction, with a protagonist that has a special 'gift', a heavy leaning towards automata and a cast of richly drawn 'quirky' characters with a tendency to be out of their time. That set-up could have been referring to The Second Sight of Zachery Cloudesely, which came out a few months ago, and - a little less directly - The Clockwork Girl, released a few months before that. Once all that is able to be put side, however, it's easy to fall for the world Gardner has created, even at its most whimsical. This is a thoroughly easy and immersive read that invites full suspension of disbelief. Recommended.
The Weather Woman is set at the start of the 19th century in London. It is historical fiction but without actual historical characters or events apart from the Ice Fairs which took place when the Thames froze over. 3 year old Neva is suddenly orphaned and finds a new home with Victor who shares her Russian heritage. Even at this young age Neva understands the weather, sees colours in the clouds which foretell what is to come and can 'sing the rain'. Victor delights in educating Neva who has an imaginary friend Eugene Jonas. As Neva gets older Eugene becomes increasingly important to her existence as a young woman who does not wish to be trapped by the expectations of society.
This lovely novel is more than Neva's story however. It is the story of many characters who have been failed by family and/or society and have then found their true role and real love and friendship. The book is certainly character driven and the relationships between the characters are strong.
I really enjoyed reading this novel and appreciated the attention to detail in the characters and the debates about meteorology and the role of women in this period.
I think this is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, totally absorbing and captures the mood of London in the 18th century. There are some very disturbing bits, some beautiful parts and some lovely romantic stories as well as some cross- dressing as our heroine discovers her true self.
Overall I’d recommend this book to anyone who fancies a bit of history and a thought provoking read.
Thank you to Netgalley the author and publishers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review
I absolutely loved this book! So different, so intriguing and so beautifully written - I was in every page, I knew all the characters and I somehow managed ,’not’ to look at the last page! Neva, an orphan child with a rare gift for being able to correctly predict the weather, is adopted by Victor who recognises her talent but also her vulnerability. We are back in the early eighteen hundreds where men’s fashion begins to change from breeches to trousers - I loved these little snippets of history! Victor builds the Weather Woman for Neva to hide behind whilst she predicts when the Thames will freeze over, when fog will engulf the city, when it will rain! However, life for a woman such as Neva is hard and so with the help of good friends she disguises herself and becomes two people! Gambling on her predictions brings out the worst in people and a tangled web of intrigue evolves causing Neva, her family, her friends, the solicitors, the boatmen untold problems! Will there be a happy ending, will Neva and her friends find lasting happiness despite the evil scullduggery of certain unpleasant characters! Oh you just ‘have’ to read this wonderful story for yourself!
4.5 stars - Thanks NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
Delightfully odd! This book broke my heart over and over in the most beautiful way.
Set in early 1800s London, Neva is a young Russian girl who can accurately predict the weather. Orphaned at a young age and taken in by a clockmaker, he helps her reach her full potential by disguising her as a boy and making her his apprentice. Together they create “The Weather Woman” - an automaton to utilise Neva’s ability without endangering her identity. Full of angst, secrets, grief, and happy reunions; this book is simply breathtaking.
This book discusses topics of gender equality and gender identity in a really lovely way. Neva “becomes” a man during her transformation into Eugene (an act that is aided by trans side character Mr. James) and Henri accepts that Eugene is a part of her as much as Neva is. Neva as a woman rejects the idea that she has to fill a particular role and often questions why Victor feels The Weather Woman is necessary when her predictions should be helping people rather than entertaining the wealthy elite.
I highlighted so many passages; there’s lots of beautiful descriptions of feelings as weather or talking about the nature of life and love. It sweeps you away visually and really makes you think. It did take me a bit to get into but once she grew up I was hooked and couldn’t put it down!
Definitely read if you like historical fantasy with a side of romance!
*There is on-page sex but I wouldn’t call this book spicy at all.
I absolutely loved the opening chapters of this novel -starting in 1789 when a great cold settles over London and a frost fair is set up on the River Thames. The descriptions of the city, the river, the fair and the characters are wonderful and tale of Neva and her irresponsible parents who run a stall using an trick bear to win chess matches really draws the reader in.
The story goes on, Neva is adopted by Victor Friezland and her extraordinary ability to read the weather develops. Victor won't allow Neva to express this skill, instead he builds her a weather woman machine so that she can continue to foretell the future. Neva also uses a male disguise to move about a society which does not recognise the position of women and certainly does not recognise their place as equal to men as scientists. All is well until Neva, whilst in disguise, falls in love with a young man.
The cast of characters in this book cross the social boundaries from lords to gamblers and business men to landlords. All are beautifully described and noticeably different to each other. As a reader I was completely immersed in the period.
The story comes full circle at the end with another frost fair on the Thames that threatens to take some of the major players from us. Gardener's descriptions of the ice cracking, the booming and the explosions as it crashes against the bridge supports, and the panic of those watching place the reader in the middle of the scene.
A very enjoyable read and great sense of time and place. Huge thanks to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for an arc copy in return for an honest review.
Everything about this book was good, the writing, the storyline, the character development, the setting, There literally wasn't anything I didn't like and I thought the book was full of such descriptive language and imagery. I loved it.
Taking place in London during the early 1800s, we are introduced to a very special little girl, Neva. She has a gift, one that cannot be truly explained with any logic or science.
This small child can predict the weather.
The weather is seemingly unpredictable, changeable, it has no master to tell it what to do.
However, as unlikely as it seems, Neva really does have the ability to truly understand these forces of nature.
Remarkable, but in an age where women are meant to simply marry and look after their husband, home and children, this unique child is forced to hide her talent.
Not wanting to waste such expertise, her father comes up with ways that she can still use her genius whilst essentially remaining anonymous.
I was captivated from start to finish.
Sally herself has a true talent, writing, the words within this book are quite honestly hypnotising.
The perfect word to outline this novel is inventive.
When Neva described how she saw the weather, she described it as 'walking on clouds' and I could really picture it in my mind. The colours mentioned were quite vivid to me.
There is the bonus of a budding romance within the pages which I was definitely happy about, if you read my blog regularly, then you know how much I adore a love story.
Gardner managed to weave it into the story gently, it didn't take away from the main subject that was the visions of the upcoming forecasts.
The Weather Woman is the tale of a young woman who I guess was born in the wrong time because in this day an age a talent as strong as that would be celebrated and utilised by everyone regardless of their gender.
A charming story that in the end warms the heart.
Beautiful historical fiction.
Firstly a huge thank you to Netgalley and head of Zeus for the chance to read this.
I loved loved loved everything about this book, the characters, the secrets, the history.
Already preordered my a copy.
This is so a beautifully written story about the hardship of being an extraordinary woman in the men's era. In old times two things determined your place in this world: your gender and the wealth of the family in which you were born. The best place to be was a son of a wealthy family of power. Worst - being an intelligent woman in any family. Why? You´d have to read the book.
This is a story about a highly intelligent woman, who doesn't fit into her era. Seems like all of her life will be a struggle. Fortunately, she finds happiness and love. That's all I can tell about the plot without giving away too many details.
My only problem with this book is that some things are being perceived from our modern, XXI-century point of view. For example, there are a few passages regarding air pollution and that it's quite possible that this has an impact on the weather. Well... the book ends in 1812 and I´m sure nobody was thinking this way back then. So I would suggest better proofreading before publishing because these things are important.
And yet I really enjoyed this book. Even though there was too much romance to my liking I still liked it.
This is a strange little book, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it but I did enjoy it. The character of Neva in particular was what kept me hooked. Quite a different take on a regency romance as well. It has a balance between a magical quality really grounded in reality.
Sally Gardner is very well known for her children’s and young adults’ fiction and ‘The Weather Woman’ feels very much like the latter although it is marketed as an adult novel. Granted, the use of profanities and the sex scenes are not typical of the YA read – I suppose it just depends on how liberal a library’s reading policy is as to whether or not many teens will read this.
They should! Gardner has created a very likeable heroine in Neva Friezland. Not only can she predict the weather but she also knows herself well and understands that the Regency world into which she has been born will not allow her to flourish unless she takes matters into her own hands.
Her adopted parents recognise her singularity of mind and allow her to assume a male persona as she ventures into society so that she may debate with men and play chess. As her friend, Henri Dênou, recognises, ‘The world is lopsided … we put value on things that have no value at all: sex, colour, beauty – all transient, and in these we imprison women and enslave men.’ Gardner has taken the current discussion of gender identity and made it a very natural part of her narrative.
There is much to enjoy in this historical novel, not least the descriptions of Thames life and the fantastical performances that the Weather Woman gives to high society. Half way through the novel, the focus is on Neva’s inheritance and the plot becomes more thriller-like in tone as Neva and her friends work out how to thwart those keen to snatch what is rightfully hers. However, the final section of the book feels unnecessarily drawn out and the whimsical ‘river voice’ which concludes the novel did not work for me.
My thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus, Apollo for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
This was a great read. Excellent plotting and beleivable characterisation even though the story is pretty unbelievable. I found this unputdownable, it had a superb sense of time and place . It really was a very enjoyable read.
Absolutely beautiful, brilliant and engrossing, Sally Gardner proves she is an extraordinary storyteller with this twist on regency fantasy. With sharp and vivid characters and enchanting scenes The Weather Woman has quickly become one of my books of the year.
The Weather Woman was a pleasurable historical fiction read. Neva was an engaging character from start to finish and the plot was original and interesting. The pacing started slow, but then settled. To me, the end seemed a little rushed in comparison, but it was a satisfying conclusion nonetheless. The world building and period setting came across well. There were only a couple of times when a line of dialogue niggled at me a bit, where the word existed in that era but perhaps not in that particular usage/phrasing. But it was only once or twice and it is a very minor complaint. In all other respects, this was an enjoyable read that it sure to please fans of historical fiction with a slight magical twist. It gets four stars from me.
Set aside your preconceptions and walk the clouds with Neva, the mesmerising heroine of The Weather Woman. Set in Regency London at the very end of the 18th century, this novel has it all - magic, mystery, romance, gambling dens , the aristocracy and the poorest in society, all astonished by the ability of the Weather Woman to accurately predict the weather. This book is so well written and the characters well-developed. Sally Gardner has produced a wonderful novel.
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.
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.
"To see things differently is a gift, Neva. It makes you unique."
I’m delighted to be opening the tour of The Weather Woman, the story of an extraordinary young woman trying to find her place in a world that has none for those who don’t fit the mould.
Set in the early 1800s, it centres around a young woman named Neva with an unusual gift. She can predict the weather. But this is Regency England, a place where women are to be seen and not heard. There is no place for an intelligent and educated woman with a unique talent in the male-dominated world of science. So she adopts a male persona and disguise in order to debate with them, and her father creates an automatron called the Weather Woman as the public face for Neva to make her predictions. But while she is happy to be making predictions and enjoys the freedom her disguises bring, it leaves her feeling even more of an outsider and fearing she will never find her place in the world.
“I don't fit the square, I'm too irregular; I'm too angular for the curves. This age is not made for me.”
The story inside these pages is as lush as its gorgeous cover. Sally Gardner is a skilled storyteller, painting pictures with words as she weaves magical realism into historical fiction and mixes in an irresistible love story. The result is an atmospheric and beautifully descriptive tale that has an almost fairytale quality. The characters are richly drawn and compelling, with Neva being particularly memorable, and there are multiple threads that cleverly tangle together in some unexpected ways. I was captivated from the start, though there was a point I felt the story lost a little momentum and my mind started to wander, but it soon picked up and I lost myself in its pages once again.
Enchanting, original, and filled with wonder, I’d recommend this book, especially if you enjoy stories with a magical twist.
The Weather Woman is a beautifully crafted story. Full of intriguing characters, a little suspense and more than a little mystery, the story flows through Neva’s life. A story about love and acceptance, it was totally understandable that Neva was frustrated at being a woman in this man’s world.
I loved Neva from the very beginning - strong, independent and clever- her mysterious gift is one that fascinates. From the very beginning of her story to the end, magic and mystery surround her and I found many of the aspects of her life very emotional. A beautiful story and one that deserves all of the recommendations. Definitely one of my top read of the year.
An atmospheric and unique historical fiction with a touch of magic.
Set in Georgian/Regency England between the frost fairs of 1789 and 1814, we follow Neva who discovers at a young age that she can sing the weather and that this ability makes her 'other'. As she matures, Neva must determine a place for herself.
Neva's adopted father says to her when she is young:
"To see things differently is a gift, Neva. It makes you unique."
But in Regency England, many people would just see Neva as odd, and people fear and reject that which they cannot understand. Neva is "fabulously original" in so many ways, but will that be accepted?
There is also an Anne Lister feel to the story. Neva finds that, as a man, she can express scientific and meteorological ideas without fear of derision. But this deception beings further challenges and misunderstandings.
"An outsider, both as a woman and as a man. The bit of me that fits in nowhere."
The descriptions of the automatons were fabulous. Automatons may be considered quaint and a little silly in view of modern robotics, but at the time they were the height of sophisticated mechanics and held audiences mesmerised.
A beautifully descriptive novels in all aspects. The feel of the era definitely comes to life in the fashions, the architecture, the drawings rooms of the rich and the gambling dens and brothels of the underbelly of London.
But most gorgeously rendered of all are the passages relating to the weather. The weather becomes its own character.
Neva is totally captivating and her story was entrancing from beginning to end.
Thank you to Net Galley and Head of Zeus for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A gorgeous read set in Regency era England, about a young woman who has a strange gift for predicting the weather. An absolutely beautiful, captivating story with unforgettable characters.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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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