Cold comforts: exploring the uncertainty of climate change through fiction
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (pictured) reviewed.
Of the main narratives of our time – terror, global recession, mass displacement, climate change – it is the slow-melting, forest-felling effects of this fourth factor that pose perhaps the greatest threat to humanity. Markets rise and fall and blood-hungry despots come and go, but Mother Nature will only stand for so much abuse. And so it follows that environmental disaster is increasingly informing emerging fiction in original ways.
It is against the backdrop of a freakishly cold winter – in which icebergs drift into British waters, Morocco is under snow and flakes fall over Britain with an air of malevolence – that the Scottish writer Jenni Fagan has chosen to set her second novel. Her first, the acclaimed The Panopticon, was an assured debut that cast an eye over a contemporary care system from the perspective of an errant teenage protagonist who had been entirely failed by society. Fagan is drawn to those who exist on the outer reaches, and in The Sunlight Pilgrims it is in the literal margins – a sub-zero caravan park in an unspecified semi-rural corner of Scotland – where a broader and yet more refined collection of voices is drawn together…