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The Weather Woman

"An extraordinary ability, hidden identities, love, treachery, and a remarkable woman born into the wrong age, this 18th-century-set triumph is an ingenious, theatrical, feminist-minded romp."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Set in 18th-century London, Sally Gardner’s The Weather Woman is a book to shout about from the giddy heights of London Bridge. Exuberantly characterful, entertaining, and richly atmospheric, it tells the feminist-minded story of a woman who was “born into the wrong time, not necessarily the wrong sex. As for her mind, that belongs to a different world altogether”.

It’s January 1789, and amidst the bustle of a Frost Fair on the Thames — “dancing bears, jugglers, puppet shows, exhibitions of wild beasts” — Neva and her Russian parents are presenting a chess-playing bear that’s so well constructed, people believe it’s real. While her father extracts money from dandies convinced they can beat the bear, Neva hears “the ice groaning under the weight of the people…she feels it in her belly, an unearthly sound, angels calling out a warning”. 

And then Neva’s prophecy comes to pass — the ice cracks and, later that night, Neva’s parents are killed. She’s taken in by a gifted maker of clocks and automata, Victor Friezland. Clever and curious, Neva hones her ability to predict weather. In modern parlance, her way of seeing the world might be termed neurodivergent – she “talks in colours when she can’t think of the right words for an emotion.” But Victor understands Neva, he supports her adoption of a male persona in order to pursue her desire for learning, and he sees the potential of her weather-predicting talent. To that end, Victor creates and unveils the Weather Woman to London society, a machine they use as a guise for Neva’s weather predictions. 

While the Weather Woman attracts great attention and wealth, Neva lives a double life as a male dandy, and a much-desired daughter, which leaves her feeling like an “outsider, both as a woman and as a man…This age is not for me.” Her situation is further complicated by a kind and dashing French count (“the most interesting person she has ever met”), and generous servings of good old-fashioned greed and treachery that threaten to expose her secrets.

While the automata, sense of theatre, and gender fluid behaviours are marvellously Angela Carter-esque, The Weather Woman has the added appeal of historic context, a tantalising plot that blazes with the desires and frustrations of a woman born into the wrong age, and a splendid evocation of London. “Fabulously original” (to borrow Henri’s description of Neva), The Weather Woman is an electrifying storm of a story, propelled by courage, passion, and the love of a lifetime.

Joanne Owen

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Reader Reviews

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The is a book to immerse yourself into. It takes you and drops you into a world that is both recognisable and atmospheric.

The Weather Woman begins in London in 1789, a time so cold that even the River Thames froze over. A time when Neva Friezland’s gift of predicting the weather could help to save lives, but also a time when women with brains or unexplained powers could be misconstrued. The consequences of discovery could be grave if anyone should discover it. This is a world where men have power and women follow. As a woman who knows her own mind and has an intelligence beyond all the men she knows, Neva could be in grave danger. The only way she can expand her knowledge and use her gift is to hide away or become a man and take chances. So, when she becomes the Weather Woman - a woman who can predict the weather – she must remain out of sight.... Read Full Review

Lynn Johnson

I enjoyed this historical novel based in Regency England where Neva Friezland has to find her way in a male dominated society. She has a gift of predicting the weather but is not allowed to use it in a society where women have very proscribed roles. Her adopted father gives her a voice through the development of an automaton - The Weather Woman - and she develops an alter-ego, Jonas, to allow her to sample male society. She is forced to make choices about her future when she falls in love. A captivating story full of historical detail and many twists and turns.

Neva Friezland was born with an extraordinary gift to foresee the weather. In Regency England women are born to be married, have children and keep house - not to be involved in predicating the weather which is the preserve of God. In order to use her gift her adoptive father builds the Weather Woman which allows her to foretell the weather.... Read Full Review

Heather Howarth

A slightly whimsical but extremely enjoyable tale, very atmospheric and beautifully written with some wonderful descriptions.

A slightly whimsical but extremely enjoyable tale about a young girl called Neva, who is adopted by a clockmaker after her parents are killed when a disaster happens during the Frost Fair of 1789. It appears she can predict the weather but to enable her to do so in public, she takes on a male disguise and forecasts the meteorological conditions from inside an automaton, built by the clockmaker. “It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time, especially if you’re a woman.”

This is an atmospheric story and it’s beautifully written. I thought it had a Dickensian vibe at times. There are certainly some Dickensian sounding characters. Ebenezer Ratchet for one! The descriptions are wonderful. There’s a definite sense of time and place, although with a little magic and hint of the supernatural thrown in.... Read Full Review

Vanessa Wild