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Shortlisted for the 2021 Costa Novel Award
In this powerful, highly anticipated novel from an award-winning author, four people attempt to make a home in the midst of environmental disaster.
Perched on a sloping hill, set away from a small town by the sea, the High House has a tide pool and a mill, a vegetable garden, and, most importantly, a barn full of supplies. Caro, Pauly, Sally, and Grandy are safe, so far, from the rising water that threatens to destroy the town and that has, perhaps, already destroyed everything else. But for how long?
Caro and her younger half-brother, Pauly, arrive at the High House after her father and stepmother fall victim to a faraway climate disaster—but not before they call and urge Caro to leave London. In their new home, a converted summer house cared for by Grandy and his granddaughter, Sally, the two pairs learn to live together. Yet there are limits to their safety, limits to the supplies, limits to what Grandy—the former village caretaker, a man who knows how to do everything—can teach them as his health fails.
A searing novel that takes on parenthood, sacrifice, love, and survival under the threat of extinction, The High House is a stunning, emotionally precise novel about what can be salvaged at the end of the world.
About the Author
Jessie Greengrass spent her childhood in London and Devon. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and now lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, with her partner and children. Her collection of short stories, An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, won the Edge Hill Prize and Somerset Maugham Award. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Sight, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The High House is her most recent novel.
Shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award
"Timely and terrifying … The High House stands out for our investment in its characters’ fates … Hope survives even a worst-case scenario, it seems. And yet, what remains with the reader is this: Let’s not let things get to that point.”
"Lush ... Greengrass explores what it is like to grow up amid an escalating catastrophe and what remains after so much is swept away.”
“The High House portrays a near-future climate catastrophe the same way M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs depicts an alien invasion: through the eyes of a single family, in and around their rural home … It’s a bleak yet somehow soothing novel about parenting while the world is falling apart, but also about finding magic in the smallest moments, like a toddler’s smile or a bird’s flight. Jessie Greengrass knows how to bring scenes to life with tactile, sensory details, and while the story can be brutal, the prose is gorgeous.”
—The A.V. Club
“Quietly devastating ... [the characters'] gradual reckoning with their existence and the fate of the planet is made heartbreaking through Greengrass’s stunning prose. Painful and beautiful, this is not to be missed.”
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED
“Moving…Greengrass excels in her account of this makeshift family—the sweet but fading Grandy, the two women who often see themselves as rivals, and the curious, growing, bird-crazy Pauly—and their attempts to live on and with and through a land that is increasingly inhospitable…[A] poignant, impressive contribution to an ever growing genre, the fiction of climate catastrophe.”
"This postapocalyptic, introspective drama is all about the love of family, isolation, hopelessness, and the will to go on. Readers will be asking the question, is it better to remember the life you had before and all that’s been lost, or to start fresh, only knowing this new existence? This novel is perfect for those who enjoy beautifully written, thought-provoking stories."
"A book suffused with the joy and fulfilment of raising a child ... The High House stands out."
"The novel’s verisimilitude is striking...it’s done with restraint and propelled by finely observed dynamics between characters who grapple with survivors’ guilt and ungraspable truths ... Described in measured, meditative prose, humanity’s paralysis is painful to read: the myopic faith in the status quo, the fearful waiting game ... This sobering prophecy of collective guilt is also a hypnotic elegy to nature, and our vanishing place in it. "
"The premise is dark, but Greengrass’s lyrical prose brings glimmers of light ... Despite the devastation, this not-quite family finds small moments of love and happiness."
—The Times Literary Supplement
"Greengrass is a thoughtful writer and The High House is full of elegant, resonant sentences about human fallibility, complacency, selfishness and our unquenchable capacity for love."
"Jessie Greengrass uses elegiac sentences as weapon in this melancholic tale of coastal erosion ... The story is haunted by an old world that got washed away."
—The Irish Times
"An intimate, elegiac drama of a not-quite family finding a way to be together. Greengrass steeps us deeply in her wild, watery setting ... its prophetic vision fixes the attention."
—The Daily Mail
"Both a portrait of an unconventional family and of inexorable environmental tragedy, I found this extraordinarily moving."
"A deeply moving novel set in a near-future where a climate crisis is no longer just a possibility but an imminent disaster. Francesca, a scientist, is one of the few to foresee it and has prepared her former holiday home as a sort of ark for herself, her step-daughter Caro, son Pauly and locals Sally and Grandy. This is so grounded in reality and the ordinariness of the lives of this disparate group, that I had to read parts of it through my fingers.
—Good Housekeeping (UK), Best Books of the Year
"This book is completely beautiful."
— Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters and Everything Under
"A master observer of inter-human atmosphere."
— Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny
"Brave, important and exquisitely written ... Even the darkest times are lit by moments of beauty and grace, and the reader is uplifted by Greengrass’s conviction that salvation lies not in competing with one another to survive but in uniting to help those we love."
— Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and What Are You Going Through
"Profoundly moving, this is an incisive yet hopeful reflection on how to move forward together."
— Julianne Pachico, author of The Lucky Ones and The Anthill
"Chilling and beautifully realised, each small detail taking us towards an unbearable truth. A novel of tender intimacies and vast scope."
— Esther Freud, author of I Couldn't Love You More and Mr Mac and Me