Saturday 23 January 2021


>> Read all Stella's reviews.

Weather by Jenny Offill      {Reviewed by STELLA}
A novel made from snippets of conversation, observations, facts and wry asides, Jenny Offill’s Weather is contemplative and challenging in its examination of human nature and climate change. You won’t see the dystopic disaster trail here, nor the high-minded rhetoric, as Lizzie, a university librarian navigates the minutiae of her Brooklyn world—mother, wife, sister, daughter, academic dropout, comfortable middle class—and the monumental nature of the changing environment. You will feel a sense of companionship with a woman who sees the approaching crisis but isn’t sure how to tackle it. Lizzie is self-deprecating and highly likeable—even when she puts her ‘recovered addict’ brother ahead of her own partner and child. Who hasn’t had a conflict of loyalty? Her wry observations of the regular library users and her immediate community—the school where her son is in the gifted class but it’s still a liberal heaven with its diversity and philosophy, the other parents, and the increasing polarised views she encounters in her side-line job—shine a darkly funny beam into this novel with serious intent. Employed by her friend, Slyvia, who has a popular climate change podcast, to answer questions sent to her, the letters and emails come from across the spectrum—from the left-liberals who want a solution to the preppers, the deniers, and the confused. These questions send Lizzie on her own quest to understand and counter her growing anxiety about the weather. Running alongside her desire to reassure others and herself is her commitment to her brother, who is battling his feelings of inadequacy in the face of being newly married (to a controlling—probably necessarily so—woman) and their newborn. Lizzie steps in, as she always has, to ‘rescue’ him—her own addiction. In the hands of a different author, this could be melodrama or heavy-handed prophesying but Jenny Offill’s episodic style and her cleverness makes Weather an unexpected joy to read. It’s a novel rich in ideas, both serious and playfully ironic. Like Lizzie, how do we have a sense of urgency when all is comfort with the occasional pinprick?  

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