In the three years since Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement berated literature for its failure to rise to the challenge of climate breakdown, fiction writers have made up for lost time. Indeed cli-fi, once a subset of science fiction, has been so quickly subsumed by realism that its days as a self-contained genre may be numbered.
The mass extinction of species has taken longer to percolate. While threatened ecosystems have sparked an explosion of powerful, elegiac non-fiction by Helen Macdonald, George Monbiot, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Macfarlane, Katharine Norbury and others, novels about wildlife have stuck largely to their traditional habitat of the children’s and young adult shelves.
But here, too, change is afoot. Polly Clark was already a prize-winning poet when she published her 2017 debut novel Larchfield. Its successor, the unsettling, immersive Tiger, joins a small vanguard of novels – including Laline Paull’s The Bees, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and Richard Powers’s tree epic The Overstory – which approach non-human life in diverting new ways.