Where it excels is in its characters’ recollection of the slow, incremental progress towards disaster, and the effort ordinary people made, every day, to block their knowledge of it out ... Despite its bleak subject matter, this is a book suffused with the joy and fulfilment of raising a child ... Greengrass is excellent on the complex currents that can develop between people who live in close proximity ... But as the novel jumps back and forth in time, the very gradual filling-in of information about the High House and who Sally is creates something of a slow start ... Short, numbered sections and fragmented speech presentation also get in the way of a truly immersive reading experience, so the book is ultimately not as emotionally affecting as it deserves to be ... The High House stands out, for Greengrass understands that perhaps the best writers and artists can hope for now is to help us admit, accept and process our collective failure to act.
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 ... In Greengrass’s vivid realisation of the consequences of inaction, the day cannot be saved, only deferred. Yet the bleak inexorability and earnest tone are mitigated by her moving, spiritual evocations of love, grief and a landscape haunted by its ruined past. This sobering prophecy of collective guilt is also a hypnotic elegy to nature, and our vanishing place in it.
Absorbing ... Among other things, this is a story of self-preservation, and the way we cling to the everyday in the face of uncertainty ... The narrative skips back and forth in time, propelled throughout by an urgent sense of unease. As it unfolds, it becomes more fragmented, the three first-person voices melding into one another like the seasons ... The premiss is dark, but Greengrass’s lyrical prose brings glimmers of light .
Like so many authors nobly trying to address the greatest issue of our time, Jessie Greengrass can’t help but moralise her way out of it ... Greengrass...writes beautifully, and also soporifically. An air of hazy, romantic unreality hangs over Sal, Pauly and Caro’s marooned, introverted and somewhat improbable pastoral existence ... It is a cliché of 'cli fi' to idealise a close affinity with the land; yet Greengrass embraces it fully ... 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. Yet there have been several more interesting novels about climate change that match thematic urgency with narrative ambition and an imaginative interrogation of human nature ... The High House, for all, or perhaps because of, its meditative loveliness, feels inert.
Style for Greengrass can be a silent, long-range weapon. In The High House, it is as if she uses a future post-apocalyptic world as a perspective from which to apply the melancholy, nostalgic air of Ian Sinclair, Rachel Lichtenstein or WG Sebald to our own present ... This air has a slight cost. The retrospective tense and elegiac, measured tone robs the narrative of some tension and freedom to move ... If straightforward tension exists in this world to be diffused, a sombre background static of doom is unremittingly claustrophobic. Urgency comes from the things we can already experience in the world we have, because they are in progress.
Extremely bleak ... Ruminative, propelled by reflection rather than plot ... While Greengrass’s prose errs on the pretentious side, she is good at describing tricky relationships ... While the characters are engaging enough, The High House doesn’t deliver the food for thought it promises, and ends up being slightly underwhelming.
Affecting but uneven ... Packed with nature imagery...the novel artfully transmits that this is a world where the physical landscape prevails. Greengrass is unnerving in her portrait of the gradual, inevitable slide towards disaster, and how people couldn’t process what was happening ... There are some beautiful lines about grief ... But the book is let down by its structure ... The writing is also patchy, hypnotic prose weighed down by exposition ... Despite its flaws, The High House is frequently penetrating and moving on grief, childcare, the lies we tell ourselves and group dynamics.
Quietly devastating ... Unlike other postapocalyptic tales, plot is secondary to the emotional weight borne by the characters who know the end is coming, and to the harrowing glimpses of the future ... Their 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.
A grim and often moving hybrid, a post-apocalyptic climate change novel with a doomed domestic idyll tucked inside ... There's no large-scale hope or drama remaining; choices made long ago have wreaked their irreversible damage, and all that's left for the four is to sustain themselves quietly, with whatever portion of peace and pleasure they can manage, for as long as possible. Greengrass excels in her account of this makeshift family ... A bleak, poignant, impressive contribution to an ever growing genre, the fiction of climate catastrophe.