High Rise – Vanessa Lee | Book Review | #HighRise |#EarthDay2024 | #ClimateFiction | @HannahHargrave8

“They predicted the storm. They could never have predicted the toll.”

An eye-opening book set on the Australian East Coast a few years from now. None of us know exactly when the sea level rises will start to force change – whole families moving en masse away from their coastal communities – but we know it will happen eventually.

This book traces two intertwined families as they can no longer ignore the impact of storms, king tides and erratic weather on their beloved home.

Constant storms have already damaged Bombora’s coastline and no end is in sight. When rising tides force Vaga, the beloved beachfront restaurant, to finally close it is seen as a grim omen. Community rifts deepen, old friends clash, and some flee the idyllic suburb for safer ground, while others stand firm, defying the increasingly erratic weather.

Mick, a charismatic local figure, faces a family crisis as he grapples with the impending threat. A chance encounter with Renata, an old schoolmate, and her son Guil, a local surfer, forges an improbable alliance. As a menacing storm looms on the horizon, Mick and Guil rally Guil’s surfer friends to form a ragtag “tinnie army.” When the tempest strikes with unrelenting force, it triggers a chain of events that will alter their lives forever.


Format: Ebook (also Kindle Unlimited) and paperback (21 November 2023)
232 pages
Source: PDF to review

The 22nd April is Earth Day, an annual event which raises awareness of environmental issues. High Rise is rather different to my normal reading genres but when offered an ecopy to review by PR Consultant Hannah Hargrave, I read a sample and was sufficiently hooked to say yes please to reading the complete book. Set in the future on the Australian East Coast, it relates to the danger of a situation that is happening now and is inspired by true events, as you can see from the background paragraph below.

Bombora is an affluent coastal suburb, popular with surfers and offered an aspirational lifestyle. The local restaurant ‘Vaga’, was a vibrant and vital part of the community however its future is in doubt due to unaffordable insurance premiums faced by owner Lou after the damage caused by previous storms. Mick, a businessman and his wife Sam had built a palatial home for their family and with fundraising activities, together with his property development business, he was a well respected member of the community. A community however that was getting smaller as more and more people, including their friends began to rapidly move away, worried by the very real risk of flooding. Wild fires and flooding in the north had driven people to settle in Bombora, including Renata, a Portugese immigrant with a difficult backstory and her 17 year old son Guil. Renata wasn’t a stranger to the area and had ties to Bombora. She was now renting one of Mick’s several high rise apartments. Life in Bombora was rapidly changing and this powerful story shows how the community, in their different ways, either ignored or focused on the problem.

High Rise is not just about climate change and how the community reacts, it is also a very human story about relationships under strain and how unresolved tensions can push families apart. Sam had become an unhappy and troubled soul and her increasing reliance on alcohol was affecting the family dynamics.

“I think it’s interesting that the two of you think that climate change is the crisis going on in your life. There are other things much closer to home that I am surprised you never address”.
“Come on Dad. Mum’s drinking. Jesus”.

Mick was uncharacteristically lost for words.

This is not a book that preaches about climate change. Instead the book focuses on individuals and how their lives are affected and that makes it so very readable and relatable. The coastal location was vividly described and the main characters of Mick, Sam, Renata and Guil were so well drawn that I was completely invested in their stories. The premise is both powerful and shocking but also shows how communities come together in the face of adversity. At the end of the book, I returned to the Prologue and read it again when it made even more of an impact.

High Rise is such a well written and relevant read with a thought provoking perspective on climate change. This debut novel is one to recommend.

Vanessa lives in Munich but was raised on a beautiful piece of coastline just south of Sydney. She loves to write about complicated people and relationships, probably because she has so much experience there. She believes that storytelling is a wonderful way to inspire change, which is why her debut novel “High Rise” has as its backdrop the insidious topic of climate change in an apathetic world.

She also loves to write poetry, but be warned – it’s dark. Follow her on Instagram @vanessa_lee_writes.

Follow the author: Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon UK

The background to the book

High Rise is a contemporary novel about climate change and sea warming, which leads to more and more volatile weather patterns. But it’s told from the perspective of the grass roots level – communities, families and friend groups – to make it more engaging for readers. Vanessa Lee wanted to personalise climate change through the eyes of real people and show the different reactions from denial, to apathy, to action. With High Rise she creates awareness and action for climate change policies by engaging readers with compelling fiction rather than dry statistics and news reports.

Originally from the east coast of Australia and now residing in Germany, Lee visited Australia in 2022, after the covid lockdown. It rained torrentially for a month and there were terrible floods around Lismore and north towards Byron Bay, which sadly took away many people’s livelihoods and homes. During these floods many normal Australian citizens saved people from their homes with surfboards and jet skis. These heroic acts inspired her to write High Rise and her book is a tribute to this ‘tinnie army’ of first responders and everyday citizens who jumped on paddle boards and jet skis to save lives during those floods of 2022.


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