My favorite, Villette by Charlotte Brontë, because it is tied to the ground and intent on the hearth. Our English heroine is planted on French soil, where she does some serious suffering.
“I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered in with earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for I could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection.”
Which book would you associate with fire?
That’s easy: Carol Shields’ Unless. And also with fury.
“At certain moments, for no reason -the smell of apple wood burning in the fireplace- I become convinced that everything is going to be alright.”
And, skip the water, which book makes you think of ice?
Obviously Virginia Woolf's Orlando, for its skating scene. As a whole, the book moved slowly, but the love affair with Sasha was magic. Where did she disappear to? Sasha, you minx.
“‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright on the ice. But Sasha who after all had no English blood in her but was from Russia where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden, and sentences often left unfinished from doubt as to how best to end them--Sasha stared at him, perhaps sneered at him, for he must have seemed a child to her, and said nothing. But at length the ice grew cold beneath them, which she disliked, so pulling him to his feet again, she talked so enchantingly, so wittily, so wisely (but unfortunately always in French, which notoriously loses its flavor in translation) that he forgot the frozen waters or night coming or the old woman or whatever it was, and would try to tell her--plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them--what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire?”
And with air?
Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis, for its buoyant humor, and “Waiting for Takeoff,” one of my favorite stories in the book, which takes place in an airplane.
"We sit in the airplane so long, on the ground, waiting to take off, that one woman declares she will now write her novel, and another in a neighboring seat says she will be happy to edit it."