The Year Without Summer
By Guinevere Glasfurd
A supervolcanic explosion in 1815 led to the extraordinary 'Year Without Summer' in 1816 - a massive climate disruption causing famine, poverty, rebellion, and lives (both ordinary and privileged) to be changed forever. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, John Constable's paintings changed, crops failed, food riots broke out, and snow fell in August.
In 1815 a supervolcanic explosion led to the extraordinary 'Year Without Summer' in 1816: a massive climate disruption causing famine, poverty, rebellion, and lives (both ordinary and privileged) to be changed forever. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, John Constable's paintings changed, crops failed, leading to poverty dispossession and food riots, and snow fell in August.
1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. 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 dust cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration during a summer of incessant rain, imprisoned indoors as hordes of refugees flood past. In Vermont, meanwhile, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve. And in Britain, snow falls in August. The ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. Farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from war, finds his family home demolished and a fence in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of visionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. And as desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots - revolution is in the air.
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.
Guinevere Glasfurd's short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, the Scotsman and in a collection from The National Galleries of Scotland.
The Words In My Hand, her first novel, was written with the support of a grant from Arts Council England.
She manages the Words and Women Twitter feed, a voluntary organisation representing women writers in the East of England and can be found online at guinevereglasfurd.com and @guingb.
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- Publication date:
06 Feb 2020
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