The Year Without Summer
By Guinevere Glasfurd
I am delighted to be closing this wonderful blog tour of A Year Without Summer. One Year, an exploding volcano that has far reaching implications than just its vicinity. It is worth reading and also find out which characters from history, you recognise. The intertwining of people’s lives and a volcanic eruption makes for intriguing reading.
About the Author
Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.
1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia:
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands and causing famine, poverty and riots. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, are changed forever. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise,
the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and
their livestock starve. In Britain, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the
farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from Napoleonic war, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost.
As desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots – rebellion is in the air.
For fans of David Mitchell and Andrew Miller, The Year Without Summer tells the story of a fateful year when temperatures fell and the summer failed to arrive. It is a story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and
the lives lost. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.
Firstly, I do enjoy a bit of creativity, so the layout of the title and sub-title captured my attention on such an otherwise, quite stark cover. It intrigues me, as does the hard-hitting blurb.
The book starts with a series of beautifully written letters between Emmalina and Henry in 1815, when Henry is a surgeon upon the Beneres – a ship out on the high seas. They practically set the scene of the times, a bit like looking at letters from ancestors.
The book then changes to 1816, where the chapters really begin, cleverly named after the main characters – John, Hope Peter, Charles, Henry, Mary, Roisin and Sarah. The book then transports readers to and fro from 1815 and 1816 in a succinct way.
This is a sumptuous period piece. I don’t mean big dresses and corsets. I mean that it is as richly character driven as it is setting driven as the story tells one of on land and at sea. There are all walks of life within these pages. There’s a romance, the returning from war, there’s a preacher trying to preach sermons wherever he could, there’s an author and artists too.
Then… an eruption! There is a volcano exploding that will change the course of life.
This was a period of time that I had heard of, but was still a bit unfamiliar with, not so much the people within the story, who did exist, but the actual Tambora volcanic explosion, so that was interesting.
There are writers, such as Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and artists too that come into this story, one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. I was intrigued as to how they would fit into this story, plus I really like John Constable’s art. John, being John Constable, trying to show off his work of art at an exhibition at Somerset House. Those unfamiliar with Constable’s work, he was born in Suffolk and painted (in my opinion) beautiful landscapes, such as The Haywain, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, Cornfield and many more… It is interesting reading his part of the story, you get a feeling of his mood as people study his paintings, but then also go onto Turner’s (whom I equally like) and when the subject of a volcano erupting would be right up Turner’s street, when it is reported in the newspaper. It is also all put into context with what was happening elsewhere, such as Byron leaving Britain for Switzerland and one would think, giving up Newstead Abbey (visit if you haven’t already). As for Mary Shelley, it is interesting reading how she is trying to write and finally comes up with a tale to tell.
There are also tales to tell around the mill and other interesting characters, each life different to the next.
The story goes at a reasonable pace as the words etch onto the page like the paper is a large canvas, now filled with well-known names and historical times all weaved together to create, what is a pretty good yarn. There’s all manner of life to be found in this book.
Do take time to acquaint yourself with the Afterword. It tells of the far-reaching consequences and the real-life devastation caused by the Tambora volcanic explosion. It also tells a little more about the people who are characterised within this book.