Socialist Worker

The High House is a vision of a dreadful future after climate catastrophe

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2755

The High House by Jessie Greengrass

The High House by Jessie Greengrass


In The High House, large scale climate catastrophe has already devastated Britain. And now it’s up to Caro, Pauly and Sal to try to survive.

Among the climate chaos, the trio are just about subsisting in a countryside house.

They’re able to do that because ahead of the crisis Francesca, Pauly’s mother, stocked their refuge full of enough supplies to be self-sufficient.

Those who survive have done so through a mixture of wealth and luck.

It’s not explicitly said how long they’ve been languishing in the High House, but it’s probably decades, certainly long enough to forget what bread tastes like.

In the High House, much like in our world today, the warnings about climate collapse are steady but unmistakable.

There are seasons that don’t end, fires that rip through forests far away and people desperately queueing for water supplies.

Reading it, it’s hard for your stomach not to completely drop.

These aren’t fantastical scenes just pulled out from author Jessie Greengrass’s head—they are ripped from recent history.

And it’s here when character Sal seem angriest—lamenting that climate crisis didn’t appear important enough because the catastrophe seemed so far away.

Although we see little of Francesca directly, it’s her love for Pauly that provides some of the most touching aspects of the book.

She packed years of age appropriate Christmas and birthday presents, toys, classic children’s books and shoes in every size. But the High House isn’t some great ark, propelling Caro, Pauly and Sal to safety. You get the very strong sense it’s slowly becoming a tomb.

Despite the bleak subject matter, The High House is an engaging read, although there were probably a few too lengthy metaphors about birds.

It takes courage to write about climate catastrophe as it’s likely to unfold—steadily but also suddenly, and with a huge loss of life, in every sense of the word.

The High House, by Jessie Greengrass, is out now

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