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Publisher's Summary

1816 was a remarkable year - mostly for the fact that there was no summer. As a result of a volcanic eruption at Mount Tambora in Indonesia, weather patterns were disrupted worldwide for months, allowing for excessive rain, frost, and snowfall through much of the Northeastern US and Europe in the summer of 1816. 

In the US, the extraordinary weather produced food shortages, religious revivals, and extensive migration from New England to the Midwest. In Europe, the cold and wet summer led to famine, food riots, the transformation of stable communities into wandering beggars, and one of the worst typhus epidemics in history. 1816 was the year Frankenstein was written. It was also the year Turner painted his fiery sunsets. All of these things are linked to global climate change - something we are quite aware of now, but that was utterly mysterious to people in the 19th century, who concocted all sorts of reasons for such an ungenial season. 

Making use of a wealth of source material and employing a compelling narrative approach featuring peasants and royalty, politicians, writers, and scientists, The Year Without Summer by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman examines not only the climate change engendered by the volcano, but also its effects on politics, the economy, the arts, and social structures.

©2013 William K. Klingaman and nicholas P. Klingaman (P)2019 Tantor

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ellen NB
  • 24-02-20

Good audiobook to fall asleep to

I was expecting a gripping story of the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, a sympathetic focus on Indonesians and colonizers and Tambora's impact on them, and accounts of the Year Without a Summer and its impact around the world.

While this book does touch on these, and it does discuss some migrations triggered by crop failures, the reader drowns in facts, figures, and exhaustive and repetitive accounts of unseasonal weather week by week, sometimes day by day, including local temperatures, precipitation, flood levels, how many days it rained, how many days it snowed, etc, etc. Other chapters embark on long recitals of crop failures, right down to individual regions' and towns' losses of oats, wheat, corn, potatoes. As harvests fail, recitals change to local bread prices and food riots. The audiobook format and sonorous narration don't do the book any favors, but these repetitive passages tend to obscure any sense of an overarching narrative or point.

The book does enliven its meteorological survey with biographical accounts of key historical figures and a few colorful characters connected with the stormy weather of 1816: Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Napoleon (why?), Robert Peel, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and ambassasor John Quincy Adams in London.

That's the book's strength: it is an exhaustive compendium of firsthand accounts and data for the Year of No Summer in England and New England. It's just the most boring account of an volcanic eruption I've ever encountered.

The book's biggest weakness, as it inadvertently admits in the final chapter's whirlwind summary of Tambora's impact on India, China, and a few other areas outside Europe, is that non-English sources were "inaccessible" [to the authors].

I feel like a book published in 2019 on Tambora should be global in scope, not limit its focus almost exclusively to Britain, northwestern Europe, and the eastern seaboard of the US.

Happily, there IS a book that explores the drama of the Tambora eruption and its impacts all over the worls. Namely, Gillan D'arcy Wood's 2014 book on Tambora. The problem with that book is that it enthusiastically pounces on various world trends impossible fallout from the timbre eruption where it's difficult to prove cause and effect. In other words, that book is more speculative and interpretive, whereas this one focuses on collecting data and primary sources.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Christi
  • 29-12-20

I wouldn't recommend

The information on the subject matter contained in this book could have been done in a documentary. The author went off on many tangents and failed to tie them to the topic at hand.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa Brennan
  • 26-10-20

Narration too poor

The subject matter is interesting, but very heavy. It The narrator is completely monotone and makes listening to the book so depressing I had to stop.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dominic
  • 20-08-20

Very informative as presented

A very comprehensive presentation of life at the time as they all were experiencing a very unusual time with the effects from a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific