In the wrong hands, metaphors can be nasty weapons. This is particularly so with weather, a subject that seems to provide an endless source of both metaphors and similes. Imagine, then, basing an entire novel on a weather-related metaphor.
Giles Foden risks that chance in Turbulence, a novel built around the difficulties of accurately forecasting the weather for D-Day. Although at times too obvious, Foden avoids flogging the reader with the dual meaning of the title, in part because he displays and expresses how some individuals are awed and enthralled by science. There is no doubt, though, that turbulence is an allegory.
Set largely in January through June 1944, the core plot is relatively simple. The narrator, Henry Meadows, is Cambridge educated in math and physics but ends up working for Britain's Meteorological Office during World War II. He is assigned to a unit that is tasked with providing an accurate weather forecast for a five-day period for 50 miles of the French coast to plan and launch the D-Day invasion. Although not in its infancy, at the time weather forecasts beyond two or three days were frequently highly inaccurate. Meadows is sent to set up a weather station in Scotland, but his real task is to attempt to get the reclusive Wallace Ryman to reveal and explain a concept he derived that can measure the turbulence of weather systems. Ryman lives nearby and now devotes his life to "peace studies."
Meadows, who specialized in fluid dynamics, is so intrigued by turbulence that he sees it — and shows it to the reader — in everyday settings. He sees it in rowing a boat, milk being poured into a stream and windblown snow. In explaining and exploring this fascination, Meadows also reveals his love for and infatuation with science. Yet while Turbulence examines and explains the impact of turbulence, Foden takes the term beyond the scientific meaning. Turbulence also occurs in our lives. As in the physical world, are the events of our lives random and unplanned? How does one event affect conditions that lead to another event? At what level do actions produce a result — or turbulence? As Meadows pursues his assignment, his actions produce extraordinary consequences for himself, Dyer and Dyer's wife.