Socialist Worker

Weather - a novel written for an era of climate grief and anxiety

Weather follows the story of an ordinary person coming to terms with climate catastrophe. It’s engaging, but not very hopeful, says Sophie Squire

Issue No. 2692

Children joined a school climate strike in Bradford last week

Children joined a school climate strike in Bradford last week (Pic: Neil Terry)


Weather, by Jenny Offill, contemplates how we are meant to feel in the face of climate disaster—or as the book puts it, “the end of the world”.

Lizzie navigates what could be called a normal life. She worries about leaving her son Eli at school every day. She’s a good sister to her brother, Henry, and supports him when his first child is born

Her story begins when she accepts a job answering emails for Sylvia, an academic who runs a podcast called Hell or High Water.

Through the emails that Lizzie sends and the conversations she has with Sylvia, she soon realises that a lot of people are worried about the end of the world.

There’s no avoiding the context for this novel. The term “climate grief”—the feelings of stress, anxiety and depression that can come with facing up to ecological catastrophe—has recently come into use.

Presenting the burden of knowing about the extent and magnitude of the climate crisis is what this book does well.

What it doesn’t do is offer a lot of hope. Lizzie and other characters are almost resigned to an apocalyptic climate future, and passive to the point of being unlikeable.

Weather does also touch on how the rich can find ways to deal with the effects of climate catastrophe on their own lives. Again, Lizzie mostly seems to accept that this is the way it has to be.

Weather is a thoughtful often funny book about modern life.

It has an engaging ­stream-of-consciousness style that allows you to really understand Lizzie as a character.

This book is engaging, but it can be a bit depressing.

Weather, by Jenny Offill. Published by Granta. RRP £12.99

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