by Melissa Harrison
Four walks in English weather.
When I first heard that Melissa Harrison had written a book about rain, the thoughts of Thomas Henry Huxley on reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sprung to mind: ‘How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!’
The weather in general—and rain in particular—is a subject that continues to fascinate us Brits. The current popularity of the ill-defined genre of nature writing is something of a national phenomenon. So writing a book about walks taken in the rain in the English countryside seems so obvious with hindsight.
Rain is an most enjoyable, albeit short book. Each of its four chapters describes a different walk, taken at different times of the year, in different parts of the country, in different types of rain. The walks in question take place in East Anglia, Shropshire, Kent and Devon. In each chapter, during beautiful descriptions of her latest walk, Harrison goes off on brief tangents to cover topics inspired by what she sees and is thinking about about during the walk. Harrison’s tangential topics include personal memoir, the effects of peat-extraction, leaf miner caterpillars, the history of the British Rainfall Organisation, hares, chalk streams, a bizarre leach-powered storm-warning system, and other random subjects. All great stuff. At the end of the book, she also includes a short glossary of rain-related terms.
Disclosure: I follow Melissa Harrison on Twitter, and consider her to be an online friend.