Boiling point: why literature loves a long, hot summer

From The Go-Between to Atonement, The Great Gatsby to Call Me by Your Name, novelists have used heatwaves to create tension, erotic charge and moments of possibility – it is a time when ‘all the rules change’

Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood begins one summer in London, on the 30th day without rain. Sun blazes out of a blank sky, heat beats “like a hammer on the pavement”, silencing the birds. A bookseller shuts up his shop and flees the city, but in his sunstruck confusion forgets a map. Lost, he comes upon a cool holloway, “a tunnel of green shade” that leads to “the edge of a dying lawn sloping slightly upward to a distant house … it seemed to me the most real and solid thing I’d ever seen, and yet at the same time a trick of my sight.” A child’s voice calls his ...