I had a lovely socially-distanced visit earlier today from an old friend, who arrived with a card and a small gift from someone she had given a copy of my novel to. This woman, now elderly herself, had grown up in Dar es Salaam and had picked up the piece of pumice in the image below from a beach there as a child. She went on to become a geologist and, in later life, developed an interest in art history. The pumice is almost certainly from either the Tambora eruption or Krakatoa, she said. She has passed it on to me, having kept it on her desk all these years. The card shows an early work of the Stour valley by John Constable, now in the V&A. In a way, the stone and card go to the heart of the book as I conceived it. It wasn’t a book about one place per se, or any one person’s life in isolation — but about how the near and the far overlay and connect. Though the story is in part a local one, the world runs through it too. Even if Constable had read about the 1815 eruption, (it was not reported until a year later), he could have had no inkling of how it would bear down and shape his world, not just the Stour valley and his beloved Suffolk but affecting most of the northern hemisphere too. Anyway, what is also lovely is how a book goes out into the world and is read and means something and finds its way back in this way . . .
The Year Without Summer is published by Two Roads Books and available from your local bookseller or online: