The Year Without Summer: a vision of climate upheaval seen through the past

Book review: Guinevere Glasfurd’s book is of extreme weather, and is historical fiction that rhymes with the present

A painting of writer Mary Shelley: her portion of the book, along with those of John Constable and Sarah Hobbs, seem the most alive. Photograph:   Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

A painting of writer Mary Shelley: her portion of the book, along with those of John Constable and Sarah Hobbs, seem the most alive. Photograph: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

After the eruption of Mount Tambora in April 1815, 12,000 people died on Sumbawa, Indonesia. A further 100,000 died in the following weeks across the region from starvation and disease. The resulting ash cloud meant that the effects were also felt globally: there was a sudden cooling in the northern hemisphere.

Snow fell in the summer. Floods were widespread. Crop failure, famine, epidemics of typhus and cholera, and social unrest all attended the disaster. Looking backwards through the lens of later scientific research, Guinevere Glasfurd’s novel makes this link between volcanic activity and climate change explicit, exploring the ramifications on a wide cast of characters.

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