LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather

5-star

by Melissa Harrison.

In Rain, Melissa Harrison takes us on four walks in the English weather, visiting Wicken Fen in January, Shropshire in April, Kent’s Darent Valley in August, and Dartmoor in October.

Harrison points out so many things she notices on her walks – sounds and smells as well as sights – providing a smorgasbord for the senses. As the drips fall off our hoods and into our faces, she also digresses into the history, biology, natural history, geology, (etc.), of rain, as well as offering thought-provoking quotes from other authors. At the end, her list of “100 words concerning rain” is a joy, and she also includes a brief glossary of rain-related meteorological terms.

At only 104 pages (including acknowledgements and bibliography), some might feel this book (at £8.99) is poor value for money, but I would have to disagree. Harrison’s descriptions are captivating, conveying the simplest details in a beautifully mindful way – not mindful as in so-far-up-your-own-arse-you-can’t-see-daylight, but as though you’re out there with her, delighting in her finds, however small or otherwise insignificant they might seem. She must be the best of walking companions.

Perhaps I was always going to like Rain; having climbed many Scottish mountains in atrocious weather (there’s rarely opportunity to do otherwise), I’ve learned not only to tolerate being wet, but to savour it, and all the liveliness it brings. I reached the end of this book much too quickly, which left me feeling bereft and – despite the glorious sunshine here just now – half hoping for a downpour to go out and walk in.

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