A Student of Weather

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the 1930’s, the unusually good weather on the Hardys’ farm on the plains of Saskatchewan makes it the subject of research by Maurice Dove, a twenty-three-year-old student from Ottawa. His charms soon cause the two daughters, seventeen-year-old Lucinda, a beautiful girl and a dutiful daughter, and eight-year-old Norma Joyce, an odd and ugly child, to fall in love with him. When it seems likely the Maurice will marry Lucinda, the obsessed Norma Joyce steals his letters to her, ruining the romance.

Norma Joyce’s obsession continues when the Hardys inherit a home in Ottawa, which is just across the street from the Doves’ home. The strange and intelligent young woman becomes sexually involved with Maurice and bears his child. As she moves from Ottawa to New York and forges a path first as a print shop worker and later as an artist, she struggles to find herself.

This tale of unrequited love is enriched by its layers of troubled family relationships and by the complex character of Norma Joyce, who is sometimes selfish and manipulative. Her family life and past include an artistic mother who died when she was still young, a brother whose death was blamed on her, a father who favors her sister Lucinda, and an ongoing rivalry with her sister.

In A Student of Weather, her first novel, Elizabeth Hay has created a complex study of passions while evoking a vivid picture of the Canadian prairie and its lingering effects on Norma Joyce.