Climate of opinion

The last two weeks of December were unseasonably warm all around the United States. Here in Washington you would have thought it was April, or even May. It certainly made for a pleasant Christmas-to-New Year’s week, but a distinctly odd one.

Still, the high temperatures made me think about the importance of weather and climate in fiction. When we call to mind the Sherlock Holmes stories, we nearly always imagine foggy London evenings; when we picture Philip Marlowe we always remember those hot Santa Ana winds heating up both Los Angeles and the murderous impulses of wronged wives. Wuthering Heights is almost all wind and rain and gloom. Jane Austen’s novels often appear to be set in an eternal springtime. By contrast, a sense of the Northern outdoors seems to touch nearly all of Canadian fiction. And what would locked-room mysteries be without snow-bound country-house parties or ghost stories without mists and twilight?

So, fellow members of the Reading Room, what novels and stories have you enjoyed in which the weather and climate play a key role in the story and in your own bookish pleasure? Please share some titles and thoughts.

Michael Dirda

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