Hay, Elizabeth. A Student of Weather. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.
A Student of Weather is a car without brakes. No. A Student of Weather is a car without brakes set at the top of a very tall hill. No. A Student of Weather is a car without brakes set at the top of a very tall hill…and someone gives it a push. This is what is was like to read Elizabeth Hay’s first novel. It started off easy enough, slow enough, gentle enough, harmless enough. Then, without any warning at all it is careening crazily almost out of control. Impossible to stop. Stopping the read proved impossible, too. I seriously couldn’t put it down.
As mentioned before, the story starts out simply. Maurice Dove is a researcher, come to study the weather of Saskatchewan. He stays with the Hardy family – Ernest and his two daughters Lucinda and Norma-Joyce. Both daughters, despite being very young, fall in love with Mr. Dove. From there, simplicity comes to a halt. A Student of Weather is a novel full of contrasting themes. While Lucinda is fair-haired, beautiful and virtuous Norma-Joyce is dark-haired, impulsive and outspoken. While both sisters find ways to fall in love with their visitor, both also find ways to hate each other. Even the landscapes within the story are contrasting. Norma-Joyce’s childhood prairie home cannot compare to the bustling city of her adulthood, New York City. As time progresses and Norma-Jean grows to be a woman with a child of her own, even her child is a conflicted in personality – both shy and loud simultaneously.
On the surface this seems like a love story – two sisters vying for the affections of a traveling man who loves neither of them. Digging deeper it is a story of betrayal and survival. It is the story of pain and loss and the idea that not every broken heart gets mended.
There were many, many, many favorite lines. Here are some of the best:
“Had she been able to , she would have kept the water he washed in, the skin that flaked away, the warm breath that hovered in the cold air above his head, his footprints in the snow” (p 96). I love how each item becomes something less obtainable. Had I written the line I would have reversed the order of the last two items.
“Maybe that’s all anyone wants in the end, to be remembered rather than overlooked’ (p 112). Simple line, but I loved it.
“She understood that you can pass from summer to winter in someone’s mind without even leaving the room” (p 172). Tragically beautiful. Been there, but who hasn’t?
“But returning is never easy, and nor is September” (p 283). Since I can add a car accident and a death to September sadness, I agree. Completely.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in two different chapters. In ” Canadian Fiction” (p 50) and again in “First Novels” (p88).