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Posted April 10, 2013
I really have enjoyed reading books on natural disasters of hist
I really have enjoyed reading books on natural disasters of history and how humans have responded to them. I was even published once on the 1906 SF earthquake. This seemed right up my alley. I had wanted to read Winchester's Krakatoa for some years, but opted to read about Tambora's eruption because it was much more enormous and the effects more disastrous. This book too little time on the actual eruption and too much time on molecules in the troposphere. This is not too surprising as one of the co-authors is a meteorologist, but that wasn't what I was looking for. A larger portion of the book is devoted to the cold weather in Europe and the United States/Canada (not really what the weather in other places was) in 1816. To make the argument that it was very cold, there is chapter after chapter of small references in diaries of it snowing or that someone had to wear a coat outside and that it was colder than anyone living could remember, etc.--we get it; it was unusual weather. That part was a bore, but luckily there were some redeeming qualities. The book bounces back and forth from what the weather was doing (and how crops were dying, etc.) to the general state of interesting historical events of the same year: for example Napoleon came back to France, and boy what that a story to tell! As well, there were a few very interesting links between the volcano-induced weather and how certain influential lives were changed. For example: Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein that summer and was surely influenced by the fantastic lightening storms over Lake Geneva and the snowy French Alps of 1816. Joseph Smith Jr's family in the United States was forced to leave their New Hampshire farm after a crop failure and move to where he would eventually would claim to have found the Book of Mormon. In fact, the mass migration due to poor crops these few years helped empty out large towns of New England and found the Midwest. These are the examples of why the book has the subtitle "...and Changed World History." In summary: it was okay, but it could have been shorter for the amount of redundancy, and we never really get a glimpse of how the rest of the world's climate was affected. Is it true Tambora "...Darkened the [entire] World..."?
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