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The Year Without Summer Reviews

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd

The Year Without Summer: the new novel from the author of The Words in My Hand

Guinevere Glasfurd

3.88 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Two Roads
Publisher: John Murray Press
Publication date: 6 Feb 2020
ISBN: 9781473672291

In 1815, a supervolcanic eruption led to the extraordinary 'Year Without Summer' in 1816: a massive climate disruption causing famine, poverty and riots. Snow fell in August. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, changed forever. By the Costa shortlisted author of The Words in My Hand.

4 stars out of 5
Clare Clark
5 Mar 2020

"Glasfurd does not flinch from the anguish faced by many in the period"

Campaigning agendas do not usually make for great fiction, but Glasfurd is a strikingly sharp and subtle writer who finds beauty in the bleakest situations. She has the rare ability to conjure characters vividly in a few deft strokes and the gift, rarer still, of making us care deeply about them. Sarah, the farm labourer, is an especially engaging creation, furious, feisty and – a welcome glint of light in this dark book – often very funny. What might have been a stodgy slice of dour political polemic becomes an angry and tender interrogation of tangibly real lives.


4 stars out of 5
Sean Hewitt
26 Feb 2020

"Paradoxically, in The Year Without Summer we are offered both a vision of the past and a vision of the future"

If these narratives make the novel appear sombre, gloomy, then that is right to a degree. Yet it is also engrossing and easy to read. Though some of the characters are less interesting than others, and could perhaps have been cut without much damage to the overall experience, this is a rich, well-written, and entirely convincing work of historical fiction. Each story adds a dimension to the exploration of climate disaster across social class and geography.

3 stars out of 5
Nick Rennison
2 Feb 2020

"Glasfurd is a skilful writer and the book offers much to enjoy"

In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia exploded, spewing ash into the atmosphere. In Europe and America, the consequences were felt in disastrous changes in the weather. Guinevere Glasfurd’s The Year Without Summer (Two Roads £16.99) gives fictional form to the impact the eruption had on the lives of half a dozen contemporaries who would not even have known it had occurred, including the artist John Constable; an American preacher whose followers are ruined by crop failures; and a young farm labourer in the Fenlands who rebels against the injustices she faces. As the narrative jumps from story to story, its episodic structure becomes a limitation, but Glasfurd is a skilful writer and the book offers much to enjoy.

5 stars out of 5
Sue Gaisford
24 Jan 2020

"an angry and unforgettable novel"

That is the real strength of this beautifully written, angry, unflinching and unforgettable novel. As Australia burns and glaciers melt away, these are sobering times in which to read, in detail, of the real and widespread suffering caused by a relatively small, sudden and temporary change in our climate, and of the tragedy of large numbers of starving people moving ever onwards, hoping for a chance of survival in an unfair world.