a review: ''Mother/Father Earth'' [capital E please, sarah gilmartin!] calls it a day
An Australian writer’s cli-fi take on climate change and emotional loss
We live in a time where epic changes are happening to the world’s climate. The consequences of industry emissions are becoming more apparent every year as man-made global warming increases, sea levels rise and the chances of future ecosystems adapting naturally continue to diminish.These big-picture themes form part of the backdrop of this cli-fi novel by Jewish-Australian novelist Mireille Juchau. Her novel (the first to be published in the UK and Ireland) tells a gripping cli-fi story of climate change as seen through the eyes of a fictional community in a verdant haven of sustainable living on the north coast of New South Wales. Griplit or Cli-fi? You decide.
The World Without Us invites comparison to other cli-fi novels with similar frameworks such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. In these novels, global crises are made clear through domestic detail. That the way we live our lives affects others, at close range and on a grander scale, is at the heart of such novels where individuals, relationships and ecologies are breaking down.
If the Romantic poets turned to the natural world for solace, Juchau’s novel asks where modern society can turn when our environments are damaged – and we have been complicit in their destruction. Choosing to insert quotes from Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee throughout underpins the author’s themes.
The Belgian Nobel Prize winner’s intricate study of apiculture is as much about the human condition as it is about bees. The same can be said of The World Without Us. The weather inside the minds of Juchau’s characters is as important as the huge changes going on around them.
The World Without Us considers several betrayals outlined in the novel as one death threatens to herald a family’s apocalypse. Juchau explores the way characters help each other claw back their lives. The world emerges as a vast and bracing place, one that goes on – with or without us.