Book Review – The Year Without Summer: 1816 – one event, six lives, a world changed by Guinevere Glasfurd

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Year Without Summer follows a collection of disparate characters as they fumble their way through some of the strangest weather the world has ever seen. After a massive explosion in Indonesia in 1815, farmland in England and America suffered and the people starved. John Constable was a struggling artist in Suffolk. Mary Shelley was writing Frankenstein in Switzerland. And ordinary people marched for a fair wage and better conditions.

A strange one, this. I really enjoyed the writing.

“Mairster Cook raised a hand for us to hush. ‘Our farms fed us through the war years and gave us a glorious victory at Waterloo…’
Cheering at this and a couple of hats lobbed in the air. ‘Pay us for it then, pay us for it,’ came a shout from the back, before being told to shush.
‘Yet more and more farms stand empty because of the burden of taxes upon us and many a farmer’s investment ruined.’
Some booing, but mostly we was silent. Most of us knew the size of our bones, but none had seen a thin farmer yet.”

Page 58, Sarah, The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd

The characters were well-observed and the dialect felt very authentic. I really liked getting to know more about John Constable and Mary Shelley. However, the writing style – each chapter told by a different character, in a different location, some in first person, some in third, with very little to gather them together but the binding – felt very disconnected and, in some ways, almost story-less.

Long term readers of my reviews will know that, if I have a regret, it’s not studying history when I had the chance. I have, however, read a lot since I left school and continue to learn at every opportunity. I hadn’t heard of the year without summer before – for indeed, it was a real event (the explosion resulted in ruined farmland, with snow falling in the northern hemisphere between June and August 1816), but this book was more literary effort than historical text, and I just didn’t care for the style.