Climate-change novels feature on Costa Prize 2021 shortlist

Books tackling climate change nominated for top literary prize

Climate anxiety is a central theme of four of the shortlisted books for the Costa Prize 2021, signalling that many writers are influenced by the pressing environmental issues we face in the world today.

One of the climate-change books is The High House by Jessie Greengrass, which is set in a flooded version of Suffolk. It follows the story of Caro and her younger brother, Pauly, as they try to survive the apocalyptic landscape in a refuge set up by her climate scientist stepmum.

Costa Prize judge and author Jessie Burton said this was one of many books that explored the subject of climate change. She revealed that books were “preoccupied with rising waters, the world heating up, the decimation of natural wildlife and the effects of humans on the land”.

Burton explained that Jessie’s book stood out from the crowd because it rose above the issue to become a story in its own right.

“What we wanted was a novel that a reader would want to read and immerse themselves in, even if it was challenging material, like facing the reality of the world heating up,” she said. “I think Jessie’s book makes it all uneasily plausible, because she does it very subtly. She’s a brilliant writer, and that’s what elevated it out of just writerly concern for the planet.”

Greengrass’s novel is in good company because it is joined on the shortlist by Claire Fuller’s Women’s prize-shortlisted Unsettled Ground, Nadifa Mohamed’s Booker-shortlisted The Fortune Men and Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees.

The judging panel said that the novels were all compulsive reading and offered “a clear lens on the past to help us look at the world with empathy and determination”.

The winner of the Costa Prize 2021 will be announced on 1 February 2022.


Got a question? Get in touch at


Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *