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The High House

Francesca, a climate scientist, and her husband secretly prepare their home, high on a protected bluff, to shelter against the coming environmental crisis, a significant flooding event. Called overseas to help with the global policy effort, they enlist the help of neighbours, Grandy and his granddaughter, Sally, to maintain the 'high house', and care for their teen daughter, Caro, and young son, Pauly.

Deservedly shortlisted for the 2021 Costa Novel Awards, The author, Jessie Greengrass, takes the reader on a family's intimate journey through the coming climate disaster. Told from alternating first-person POVs of Sally, Caro, and Pauly as they face the impending floods from the vantage point of their home, safely perched high above the rising ocean.

I connected with their unfolding distress, having faced the impact of flooding, albeit less deadly. I remember feeling helpless as the swelling river banks engulfed many homes while I watched from a high-rise unit with a birdseye view of the emergency. It is a surreal feeling. On the one hand, my immediate area was unaffected. Yet below, an emergency unfolded under the ever-present news choppers, bringing constant television updates.

The narrative is told mainly in chronological order. Still, occasionally the characters' fate is mentioned early in the story, but that never softens the tension as they all realise that the irreversible climate crisis worsens. The High House is a powerful story that reminded me of Cormack McCarthy's The Road. A must-read for climate deniers. 5 STARS


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