Monday 27 September 2021


Finished September 25 
Storm by George R. Stewart, introduction by Nathaniel Rich

I loved this book. I got it through my subscription to the New York Review of Books, and before I read it attended (virtually) an interview with Nathaniel Rich that was enlightening. 
This novel was originally published in 1941, and was very popular at the time. Stewart lived in California for many years and experienced many of northern California's storms. To research this book, he did a lot of research, much of it primary, meeting with the men (as most of them were men at the time) working on the roads and the rails, and at the airport and in the weather office, learning how it all worked, learning meteorology and geography and so much else that he uses in this book.
The storm of the title is a major storm, but not a hurricane or typhoon. The characters that interact with it here are mostly in northern California and Nevada, but he talks about effects across the continent and from the other side of the Pacific where the storm originates. 
I learned a lot about the way roads were cleared, the control systems around water, and weather. Stewart has one character, the Junior Meteorologist, fresh out of school and with a lean towards the science of weather, naming the storms he sees. At the time of initial publication, storms like hurricanes weren't given names as they are now, and this book was an inspiration to that practice beginning, which I found kind of neat. As this particular storm is given the name Maria (pronounced Mar-I-ah) by the meteorologist, I was reminded of the song "They Call the Wind Maria" and wondered if there was a connection, so I looked it up, and indeed that song was inspired by this book. 
The book is broken up into twelve days, the life of the storm. For each day, we are told a variety of short narratives, some historical, some meteorological, some philosophical, and some about the people who interacted with the storm and what they faced. We see many of these people over and over through the narrative, with some appearing every day and other just a few. There are also those who appear only once. Besides the people, we also have some wildlife, including a coyote and a boar. These animals have the storm touch their lives as well in differing ways.
Highly recommended.

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