Stotting and plothering

A review of ‘Rain’ by Melissa Harrison

Why on earth would anybody want to write a book about rain? Complain about it, by all means – or predict it or avoid it – but writing about it seems perverse. Melissa Harrison not only writes about it in this book – but sets out from home, on four separate occasions, specifically in order to walk in it. In doing so, she displays a particular knack for taking the reader with her. Rain spattering on the hood of your imaginary cagoule, Melissa will chat with you as you walk – pointing out the plants bowing beneath the drops and the animals who relish, or run from, the rain. Occasionally you will stop for longer as you shelter beneath a tree, perhaps – and your knowledgeable companion will tell you about the clouds above or some wonderfully improbable device such as the leech-powered ‘Tempest Prognosticator’. (Don’t ask – you’ll have to read the book).

Melissa is making a point here, not just about the weather but about our place in the natural world:

There’s something salutary about the way our best endeavours can still be scotched by something so simple and primordial as the weather: it keeps us in our place somehow, reminds us that we are still part of the natural world.

That point is made with charm, intrigue and a lot of hard-earned knowledge.

I thoroughly recommend this book, not least because I have found its words to fall like fat raindrops on the dry soil of an over-busy mind. If you ever read to soothe, distract or travel by page – then this is a book you should not miss.

I suspect it was before Melissa Harrison was born that artist Roger Dean started designing homes in breaks between album covers for the band Yes. In one of them he created a weather room specifically designed to exaggerate the sound of rain falling outside. What a place that would have been to lie and read Rain. Then again, the quality of writing might just have coaxed the reader to go outside and get wet anyway!


Available from Faber & Faber

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