Jenny Offill — Weather (2020)

I spent Sunday afternoon between the armchair and the sofa, reading Jenny Offill’s latest novel: Weather. Her previous – Dept. of Speculation (2014) – was a novel I picked up in a book shop because of its cover, and purchased immediately upon reading its first three sentences:

Antelopes have 10x vision, you said. It was the beginning or close to it. That means that on a clear night they can see the rings of Saturn.

I was thrilled by something on almost every page of that novel. Offill’s writing is concise and incisive, articulating the ideas and questions of her narrators clearly and without judgment. I had been looking forward to her next novel ever since, and Weather had sat on the shelf since release in February, waiting for a day like this when I would be able to enjoy it in its entirety. I was happy to find it full of all the insight and poetry I expected. Take for example – and out of context – this simple couplet:

Quiet in the cup. Hard to believe that isn’t joy, the way it flies away when I fling it out the window.

It is a novel of fragments: observation, meditation, worry, question – all strung together loosely about a simple narrative coloured with concerns about family, duty, and (as the title suggests) the larger, incomprehensible forces which shape daily life.

I highly recommend both novels, as well as the practice of enjoying them in a single sitting. I have not read Offill’s debut (Last Things (2000)), but enjoying Weather so much this afternoon has moved it further up my list.

Adam Wood @adam