The six different storylines are difficult to stick with, but cleverly written.
In the summer of 1816, cold weather and incessant rain in Europe, and unseasonal snow and frost in America caused crop failures, and ultimately widespread famine. This temporary climate change was caused by the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 which released so much ash into the atmosphere that it spread throughout the world, thus affecting the weather. This book is the story of six different people. Henry Hogg is a surgeon on board the East India Company’s ship sent to investigate the event; John Constable, English painter, wants to paint idyllic English summer scenery; Mary Shelley, writer and wife of Percy Byssche Shelley, holidays in wet, gloomy Switzerland and is inspired to write a horror story; Sarah Hobbs, farm labourer, feels the injustice of being poor and hungry; Hope Peter, a soldier of the Napoleonic Wars, returns home to devastation; Charles Whitlock, Vermont preacher turned farmer, shares the fate of his fellow farmers.
“A sharp, spring shower could be expected at this time of year, but not rain so brutally blunt. It came at him and, hours later, at him still; an insult of rain.”
“It was proper blowy when we reached the farm’s fence, there being nothing on the Fen to keep the wind from blowing how and where it wanted. I was relieved of it raining; there’d be a choke of dust otherwise.”
“It was a house built for summer, for long summer evenings spent outside on the terrace, drinking wine and watching swallows and swifts cavort above. They managed one much longed-for evening like that, sitting out in their summer clothes, maintaining a defiance against the undoubtedly chilly wind. Then, too windy for candles, which burned down in minutes, they hurried indoors to their clumsy fire-making, giddy with cold and shivering.”~Quotes from “The Year Without Summer” by Guinevere Glasfurd”
- The Guardian: “The novel’s episodic structure presents challenges. Some stories are more satisfying than others, and the emotional impact of the whole is compromised as it works towards six unrelated and mostly unhappy endings. But it is impossible to read The Year Without Summer and not to be deeply troubled by the scale both of the climate disruption caused by the Tambora catastrophe and the human suffering that followed. Glasfurd’s hard-hitting admonition deserves to find its mark.”
- Financial Times: “this beautifully written, angry, unflinching and unforgettable novel.”
Author website: Guinevere Glasfurd
Historical note: On 11th April 1815, the eruption of Tambora on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia sent clouds of ash into the atmosphere, drifting throughout the world, causing a temporary climate change. Temperatures dropped, and 1816 became known as “The Year Without Summer”. This event had far-reaching effects. In Europe, where the Napoleonic Wars had ravaged the country, there were already food shortages and poor crops, and widespread famine resulted. Riots broke out in many places, caused by food shortages and higher prices. In New England (North America), too, crops failed and farmers left the area for places further west. In Switzerland, Mary Wollstonecraft, holidaying in Switzerland, was inspired by the dark, gloomy weather to write her novel, Frankenstein, now a best-selling classic.