Lucy Wood – ‘Weathering’

9781408840931There are many authors who could bring out a new book and I’d be excited. I’d put it on my ‘to read’ list and I’d definitely get around to it, eventually. The effect that Diving Belles had on me put Lucy Wood in a class above. I didn’t just note that Weathering was due out. I set a reminder in my phone, went to my local bookshop and bought the hardback.

The story centres around three women: Pearl, her daughter Ada, and Ada’s little girl, Pepper (who I think is about 6, but is certainly under 10). And right at the heart of what happens is a broken-down old house in a rain-soaked valley, right next to a river that alternates between a gentle ripple and a roaring tumult but is a constant presence in the lives of the women and the narrative itself.

In circumstances that become apparent almost immediately – but are so wonderful in the reveal that I won’t include any spoilers – Pearl has found herself in the river. Ada has brought Pepper back to the house in which she – Ada – grew up but hasn’t seen in thirteen years. And things just…happen; I don’t really want to go into more detail than that. They’re the sort of things that are inevitable in a small community or a dilapidated house. And they’re interwoven with memories; Pearl must make sense of hers in order to finally leave the house that has such a hold over her, Ada must make sense of hers in order to stay, and Pepper starts to find herself in ways that are sweetly reminiscent of both mother and grandmother.

There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with reading books that you’ve hyped in your mind but I’m relieved to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I really loved every part of it and consciously slowed down my reading speed to savour it more.

Weathering is a lot like Diving Belles in that Lucy Wood’s distinctive style shines through and the countryside in which the story is set is woven into the tale so that it becomes a character in its own right. I can’t think of another book that so strongly lives up to the promise of its title. There’s just so much WEATHER in this book. In many respects, it’s an extended pathetic fallacy. A relentless barrage of water sweeps through the book in the form of the river, rain, snow and meltwater, and Wood’s descriptions are magical and, despite the fact that there can only be so many words to describe water, constantly fresh. She paints a completely immersive picture.

There’s a strong storyline but the thing that has stuck with me a few days after finishing is the tangible atmosphere Wood conjures: a jumble of memories like a vivid dream sequence but equal parts smell, sound, texture and image.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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