In 2009 Margaret Atwood published The Year of the Flood, set in the aftermath of a waterless flood, a flu-like pandemic that almost extinguishes human life. Twelve years ago such apocalyptic visions still felt speculative. Today, Jessie Greengrass’s new novel, The High House, imagining a near future in which civilisation is engulfed by an actual watery flood, does not. It feels chillingly inevitable.
The author of a prize-winning short story collection and Sight, a novel shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, Greengrass grew up partly in Devon and lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Her affinity with the countryside permeates this book, in which nature is both sublime and implacable.
It begins near the end: Caro, her little half-brother Pauly, and Sally are ‘the last ones, waiting’, in a house in Suffolk equipped for self-sufficiency by Pauly’s mother Francesca, an environmental activist who has been trying to prepare an unheeding world for apocalypse.