Weather by Jenny Offill

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House; Allen and Unwin; Thorndike Press 3. Disorder-anxiety-burnout [Public Domain]Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 4. Sky-storm-clouds [Public Domain] Image by DreamQuest from Pixabay 5. Chinese clouds [Public Domain] Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

The weather in this book refers both to the physical weather and the political weather. It is set in 2016, at the time of the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. The main character Lizzie’s job is to answer the mail her friend Sylvia gets as host of a climate change podcast. She becomes increasingly anxious about the state of the nation and the climate change predictions, as well as worrying about her brother, a recovering addict, and her reclusive mother.


“I stood there in my dingy bra and Target underwear while the doctor examined me. He was well-groomed with a plume of silver-gray hair and an unplaceable European accent. He held a magnifying glass up to my skin. Described every mark on my body one by one: Exceedingly unlikely to be cancerous! Exceedingly unlikely to be cancerous! He had a melodious voice. I wanted every day to be like this, to begin in shame and fear and end in glorious reassurance.”

“Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do does?”

“People always talk about email and phones and how they alienate us from one another, but these sorts of fears about technology have always been with us,” he claims. When electricity was first introduced to homes, there were letters to the newspapers about how it would undermine family togetherness. Now there would be no need to gather around a shared hearth, people fretted. In 1903, a famous psychologist worried that young people would lose their connection to dusk and its contemplative moments. Hahaha! (Except when was the last time I stood still because it was dusk?)”

My Thoughts:

The fragmentary structure (a series of paragraphs loosely connected) of this book suits its meditative feel. There is plenty of humour, but also much seriousness, but I didn’t feel particularly involved, or empathetic towards the characters. Not recommended for anyone who likes traditional narrative structure.

Book reviews:
  • Guardian: “The follow-up to Dept. of Speculation is a dazzling response to climate crisis and political anxiety”
  • Readings: “As ever, Offill’s writing, delivered in her trademark fragmented style, is so clever and funny, full of wry insight, but also a warmth and humanity that transcends its satire.”
Other editions:

2020 Longlist Women’s Prize for Fiction


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