Top critical review
whatever the weather
on 21 June 2009
weather forecasting is something that we all rely on, but at the same time we very probably take for granted. And yet it has a major influence in life, from telling us whether we need a coat when we go out or not, to bigger things such as back in 1944 when the allies had to get lots of troops across the channel in one piece.
in a stand alone novel complete in approx 350 pages we meet henry meadows, meterologist in the 1940's. he tells us his story in the first person, and it's set up as being something he wrote down many years later. thus the prologue describes the expedition he's on at the time of writing, and the narrative will occasionally jump about in terms of timescale as he describes the post war fate of characters and looks back with wistful eyes at what he was like in his youth.
he's a man with a mission. because the allies need to be able to accurately predict the weather in order for d day to go ahead, and the one man who can help them do that best is wallace ryman. a brilliant meterologist and also a quaker and concentious objector. living in scotland and working on peace studies it's down to henry to get to know him better. and to get his secret formulas out of him.
this is slow to start, thanks to the early present day setting and then having to describe what is required of henry and to get him to scotland, but slowly around page 50 or so it stats to become quite compelling. this is down to decent prose and descriptive text that really captures the 40's flavour well, with determined allied commanders and debutantes turned military personnel and the like. the fact that ryman doesnt even appear till page 100 or so doesnt matter.
as the two men get to know each other better and life progresses it's an intriguing read as you wonder what each will do next. and the book throws in a big surprise with a startling development around page two hundred that really does leave you wondering what will happen next.
unfortunately, not much does. things just happen exactly the way they did historically. all the science is very interesting but might go over your head if you're not mathematically inclined and the way things work out doesnt really bring any compelling drama, even in a major relationship between henry and another character.
things also end a bit abruptly, but there's an epilogue of sorts that does say what happened next to certain characters.
this never lays the metaphors on with a trowel and that's welcome. it contains interesting history and some memorable characters, but ultimately there's nothing much about it to make it live very long in the memory. if this book was the weather, then it would start out dull and grey, see sunny skies appear for a while before getting progressively darker, and then after a short sharp shower it would remain grey for a while before all the clouds dissipated away into nothing.