Sunday, 18 May 2014

Bring Me Sunshine, by Charlie Connelly (Little, Brown)

If for nothing else than the fact that you can guarantee a reference to Charlton Athletic in every book, Charlie Connelly is one of my favourite authors.

In Bring Me Sunshine, a self-proclaimed "windswept, rain-soaked, sun-kissed, snow-capped guide to our weather", he excels himself on this front by bringing up the mighty Addicks on the very first page - but there is so much more to enjoy in this study of our relationship with our atmospheric surroundings and climate.

Indeed, it's more of a study of the study of the weather conducted by so many famous and not so famous people throughout history, which has enabled us to have a modern-day understanding that enables us to predict and forecast the weather not only for our convenience but, as Connelly shows and it's all too easy to forget, to save lives.

So we learn about Robert FitzRoy and Francis Beaufort and not only their respective efforts to devise a scale for winds and father the weather forecast, but also disagreements with Charles Darwin on evolution and battles with depression. But the pages of Bring Me Sunshine also contain tales of the crackpots and the charlatans, those convinced that a volley of cannon into the clouds would produce a downpour and those simply intent on convincing desperate communities to part with their money in search of rain for their crops.

Fascinating though the topics are, it could make for (if you'll forgive the pun) a dry read. So we're grateful for the frequent wry asides and jokes that ensure a book that is as entertaining as it is engrossing.

I would say that, of course. Full disclosure: I know Charlie quite well, and not only once helped edit and lay-out one of his earlier books (about Charlton, obviously) but I also acted as photographer for his brilliant Stamping Grounds, in which I also feature. Buy a copy here!

That said, I like to think that my critical faculties aren't influenced by such things as friendship. Indeed, friends of mine within the local amateur dramatic society of which the Wench is a member still regale each other with the story of the time that, when asked what I thought of a particular performance, I tactlessly responded, entirely without humour, by saying it was "the worst thing I had ever seen. Ever.".

I digress. You often hear authors encouraged to 'write in their own voice' and this is an attribute Connelly has in spades. When he finds something he finds interesting or inspiring, so does the reader, and this ensures you are prepared to follow the map that Connelly has laid out. And if you want to find out what the proper name for the smell of rain is, look no further.

In many ways a companion piece to Connelly's hugely successful and thoroughly recommended Attention All Shipping (the ‘shipping forecast book’), Bring Me Sunshine is a book to offer you warmth in the winter and to make you shiver on the sunniest days. I liked it. What's more, there's even an extended second Charlton reference in a later chapter - he just can't help himself.

So, rating time:

Bring Me Sunshine, by Charlie Connelly (Little, Brown) - 8/10

Next up: Fevre Dream, by George RR Martin (Gollancz)

  • Click here for the full list of books so far, and their rating
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