Book review

The Weathermonger by Peter Dickinson (1969)

This is an atmospheric book which conveys ignorance and fear very effectively. England is suffering in a time known as The Changes when the people have universally turned against all machines and live in a primitive state working on the land. Geoffrey, who has been the town's weathermonger, and his sister are about to be drowned for witchcraft because Geoffrey maintained his uncle's motorboat (and not because he conjures up weather conditions as required). They manage to escape in the boat across the Channel to France following many others who went before them. However the authorities in France, where modern life goes on as usual, persuade them to return to try to trace the apparent source of the paralyzing spell.

The evil seems to emanate from somewhere in the Welsh borders. Geoffrey and Sally choose to travel by car - a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost taken from the Beaulieu Motor Museum - which seems a poor choice in the circumstances since it attracts so much unwanted attention. They are relentlessly hunted by hounds across the countryside and do very much better when they abandon the car for a cantankerous pony. Of course, the journey by car allows Peter Dickinson to paint an excellent portrait of the overwhelming hatred and revulsion which the people have developed for all things mechanical.

They find what they are looking for. In the midst of an ancient woodland which never used to be there stands an enormous medieval tower which regenerates itself constantly - the log fires burn, banquets are laid out on the table and wolves bay at the outer gate. There is an unlikely keeper, the apparently inoffensive Mr Furbelow, who seems to have no idea of what is going on outside the castle walls, so preoccupied is he with what is going on inside the walls.

Geoffrey and Sally must discover the necromancer and avert the evil of his spell. They manage this in an extraordinarily compelling sequence which rather makes up for the weakness in the plot with the Silver Ghost.

The plot itself then, is a little patchy but the ending is extremely powerful. If you would like to think some more about the background to this book you might like to look at my article on Merlin.

What can I read next?

This book is part of The Changes trilogy so if you would like to read more about England in the future back in the middle ages you might like to try:

  • The Devil's Children
  • Heartsease

Also by Peter Dickinson:

  • Merlin Dreams

If you enjoyed meeting Merlin in this story, you might like to look at this series of five books by Susan Cooper, known as The Dark is Rising sequence:

Actually, Merlin really does pop up all the time. If he interests you, you might like to look at this book by Kevin Crossley-Holland:

The Weathermonger is really more like a time travel novel than anything else, I think. You might like to look next at this trilogy by William Mayne:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Weathermonger features in these lists: