Review: The Death of Grass – John Christopher


Author: John Christopher

Book: The Death of Grass

Book in series: 1 of 1

Publisher: Penguin

Release date: 1956

ISBN: 978-0141190174

Source: bought from local bookshop


At first the virus wiping out grass and crops is of little concern to John Custance. It has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots, but Europe is safe and a counter-virus is expected any day. Except, it turns out, the governments have been lying to their people. When the deadly disease hits Britain, society starts to descend into barbarism. As John and his family try to make it across country to the safety of his brother’s farm in a hidden valley, their humanity is tested to its very limits.


The Death of Grass grabbed and held our attention from start to finish – mainly because of the way it explored the consequences of all grass crops dying out, which stretched way further than we ever imagined. Have you ever really considered what would happen? How governments would respond? In this very UK based book, John Christopher has convinced us that the response would be extreme but very believable.

We didn’t really connect deeply with the characters – this might be because we read so many YA books that focus on drawing us into the lives of the protagonists, whereas in this we were reading about middle aged men and women, and more specifically the society changes they face. Also, not many of the characters were very likeable, but neither were they explicitly horrible, which means we never really engaged with them. This did work to really keep us on the edge of our seats as we never knew when characters would turn against each other. As it turns out, it happened quite a lot!The book looked at some seriously horrific issues such as rape and killing in a discrete way which didn’t make it too hard to read, but the implied and suggested were enough to have an impact. As these characters travel across the country they are faced with gangs, arson and murder, which all reflect the end of society as we know it. What we really intrigued by was how none of these topics were depicted as particularly gruesome or off-putting but still gave a feel for what is a very realistic portrayal of a dystopian society.

We are really drawn towards books that look at a society’s deterioration into dystopia through personal struggles and journeys rather than save-the-world stories. The Death of Grass is one of these books, focussing on a man’s journey towards safety with his family and friends that they meet along the way. The end of the book really signified this by staying true to what it set out as – an individual’s journey in a corrupted society. This is definitely one for you if, like us, you enjoy seeing a world through someone’s eyes and an author’s take of what the future holds for us.Age recommendation – adult.

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