Friday, 14 August 2009

Turbulence by Giles Foden

DATE PUBLISHED: 2009 DATE READ: August 2009 NOTES: A fictionalised version of the attempts to predict the weather in the run-up to the D-Day landings. Henry Meadows is the young maths prodigy who is sent to Scotland to assist in making an accurate forecast and at the same time try to make contact with Wallace Ryman. Ryman has supposedly devised a system that brings together many of the variables of forecasting – the Ryman Number – but as a pacifist he is unwilling to allow his work to be used to advance the war. Meadows recounts his story in 1980 from a “berg ship” carrying ice to Saudi Arabia. Although the story of the D-Day landings has been written about many times not a great amount of attention has been given to the importance of correct weather prediction. Foden also puts forward the reason for joint planning among the allies – that if the weather forecast turned out to be wrong then no one country would be blamed for this. For much of the narrative the action of the weathermen is removed from the servicemen who are doing the actual fighting but these two strands were brought together very satisfactorily at the end. He sensibly doesn’t attempt to do a re-writing of the landings but gives us just enough detail to complete the story. My main problem with the book was my incomprehension of the weather prediction formulae and theories presented. Much of it made no sense at all (to me) and in the end I just had to let the words flow over me…. However I did manage to grasp the concept of the “berg ship” and Pykerite and very much enjoyed all these parts. Meadows comes over as a likeable but gauche and socially inept individual. Ryman is a fascinating and larger than life character and the book came alive when he entered the narrative. And Turbulence ends with a mystery – a rather clever device!

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