Blame It on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History

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9780060839826: Blame It on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History

An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world.

Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping cultural change. She also delights us with a plethora of fascinating weather-related facts (Did you know that more Britons die of sunburn every year than Australians?), while offering readers a hilarious overview of humankind's many absurd attempts to control the elements.

  • If a weather-produced blight hadn't severely damaged French vineyards, there might never have been a California wine industry. . . .

  • What weather phenomenon was responsible for the sound of the Stradivarius?

  • If there had been a late autumn in Russia, Hitler could have won World War II. . . .

  • Did weather play a part in Truman's victory over Dewey?

Eye-opening, edifying, and totally unexpected, Blame It on the Rain is a fascinating appreciation of the destiny-altering vagaries of mother nature—and it's even more fun than watching the Weather Channel!

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About the Author:

Laura Lee is the author of eight books. She brings to her writing a unique background including stints as a morning show DJ, improvisational comedian and a professional mime. She now lives in her native Michigan where she writes speeches for some of the world's largest corporations and edits her church newsletter.

From The Washington Post:

Laura Lee's Blame It on the Rain is nothing if not timely: summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina; summer of 2006, floods and a nationwide oven. Also the author of The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravations, Lee gets down to business in her introduction, foreshadowing the two Russian-winter set pieces that make her best case for weather as a history-changing force: 1812 and 1941. In 1812, she writes, "The one thing that Napoleon had failed to consider became abundantly clear: Russia can get very, very cold." A century and some years later, she adds, Hitler found out that low mercury isn't always the worst of it. "Just as the cold began to abate, the Germans encountered another Russian weather phenomenon, the rasputitsa . . . the time of year when snow melts and the roads become an impassable quagmire." The results in each case were a failed invasion, a devastated army and a "turning point" in the war, and Lee has rung her not terribly controversial theme: Great men's best-laid plans can be tripped up by weather.

Certain details in the Russian examples may be novel, but these are familiar stories, and there's more where they came from in Blame It on the Rain, including the Little Ice Age that put an end to Viking occupation of Greenland (readers of Jared Diamond's Collapse will nod in recognition), the Protestant wind that saved England from the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the downpour that exacerbated the Union soldiers' helplessness after the Battle of Fredericksburg. But the value of this bouncy book lies in its lesser-known examples, along with some forays outside the worlds of war and politics.

Lee maintains, for example, that there was a second Protestant wind, which not only blew William and Mary from Holland to England in 1688 but also kept English ships full of defenders from intercepting them. The air currents had been fickle for days before the coup (Lee characterizes them as by turns "popish" and "agnostic"), but then they got serious and blew Catholicism, in the person of King James II, virtually off the island.

Much later, Lee takes us to Finland, which hoped to out-Russia Russia with freezing weather when the Soviets attacked in 1939. Ultimately, the Soviets prevailed, but not before the Finns put up a fierce defense, which included inventing and making ample use of the Molotov cocktail, named "after the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Vyacheslav Molotov," who was said by Winston Churchill to have the "smile of Siberian winter."

Among the non-military chapters is one about a painting, Edvard Munch's much-reproduced "The Scream," in which the screamer's horrified visage is accentuated by the "swirling, fire-red sky" at his back. This effect, Lee reasons, came courtesy of a volcanic eruption on Krakatau, an island that lies between Java and Sumatra. Lurid sunsets, caused by dust and ash spewed into the air and wafted around the world, also influenced other artists, including American painter Frederic Church and English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. Lee goes on to note: "Some believe the Krakatau sunsets, or a similar effect produced by another storm, may have been responsible for the visions [i.e., strange clouds and flashes of light] of pilgrims who came to a field in Fátima, Portugal" in 1917.

Such material is engaging and new (to this reader, at any rate), and there's more. During World War II, Lee observes, baseball announcers were supposed to fudge the explanation when a game was rained out lest our enemies find out too much about American weather. And it's interesting to learn that elderly citizens of Kokura, Japan, which an overcast sky saved from being a target for an atomic bomb in August of 1945, meet every year "on that fateful day to . . . celebrate the clouds that spared so many of their lives."

Occasionally, Lee makes too much of the weather. I wasn't persuaded by her suggestion that a storm sealed the fate of Robespierre by keeping his partisans from gathering and rallying on his behalf. Her writing can be excessively perky, too, as in this passage from a chapter on the settlement of the New World: "There was a big bang. On second thought, perhaps we don't need to go to the very beginning. Let's begin our story with a solar system that already exists." And she seems to have declared war on the indicative mood, preferring again and again to tell us that something "eventually would" happen, rather than simply that it did.

Lee may be no stylist, but she has gathered a welter of old and new material into a fast-paced little number that should help you get through a seasonal doldrum or two.

Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world. Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping cultural change. She also delights us with a plethora of fascinating weather-related facts (Did you know that more Britons die of sunburn every year than Australians?), while offering readers a hilarious overview of humankind s many absurd attempts to control the elements. If a weather-produced blight hadn t severely damaged French vineyards, there might never have been a California wine industry. . . . What weather phenomenon was responsible for the sound of the Stradivarius? If there had been a late autumn in Russia, Hitler could have won World War II. . . . Did weather play a part in Truman s victory over Dewey? Eye-opening, edifying, and totally unexpected, Blame It on the Rain is a fascinating appreciation of the destiny-altering vagaries of mother nature#8212and it s even more fun than watching the Weather Channel!. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780060839826

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world. Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping cultural change. She also delights us with a plethora of fascinating weather-related facts (Did you know that more Britons die of sunburn every year than Australians?), while offering readers a hilarious overview of humankind s many absurd attempts to control the elements. If a weather-produced blight hadn t severely damaged French vineyards, there might never have been a California wine industry. . . . What weather phenomenon was responsible for the sound of the Stradivarius? If there had been a late autumn in Russia, Hitler could have won World War II. . . . Did weather play a part in Truman s victory over Dewey? Eye-opening, edifying, and totally unexpected, Blame It on the Rain is a fascinating appreciation of the destiny-altering vagaries of mother nature#8212and it s even more fun than watching the Weather Channel!. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780060839826

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