THE NORTH WATER // Ian McGuire
THE NORTH WATER follows a 19th century whaling expedition in the arctic North. You follow Henry Drax, a harpooner on the Volunteer, and an experienced Yorkshire whaler, as well as Patrick Sumner, an ex army surgeon with a shattered reputation and nothing better to do with his time than to sail as the ship’s medic. Evil is discovered aboard the ship, and Sumner begins to investigate. He had hoped to find peace and solitude on board The Volunteer, but instead comes to face the true depths to which a man can stoop. This book is savage, bleak, cold, and riveting, and takes a hard look at the lengths humanity will go through in order to survive.
Thoughts // Review
To be honest, I don’t really know where to start with my review. I really had a hard time rating this book. Although the writing was superb, it also felt pretentious in its disgustingly crass nature. That being said, Ian McGuire definitely can write. Although the novel was filled with tactless handling of difficult issues, it also held some of the most beautiful prose I had ever read. You could absolutely feel the harshness of the winter winds, and there were times I almost felt seasick while reading. This takes raw talent for a writer to be able to make you feel and experience so much while reading their story.
Although some of the characters were so despicable aboard this whaling ship, I realize that this was rather the point of these characters to some degree, and the author did an excellent job at making you absolutely loathe some of them. Again, this concludes the fact that McGuire can write, and that’s a fact.
The exploration of humanity’s will to survive was savage and gruesome. I had never read such atrocities in a novel before. I was completely disgusted and astonished by some of the survival tactics the characters sought when faced with the possibility of death.
Suspense filled this novel, making it read almost like a thriller, which I also really enjoyed. Just when the story would lull, something else would happen that made my head real and heart beat faster. I think I said out loud, “what the HELL?” probably 10 times while reading this book.
All of these excellent things being said, I did feel like the nastiness of the writing was a little overdone in parts. Also, I felt that occasionally, there were awkward gaps in the story line, and the pacing was off balance. This threw me, and I had to go back a couple of times to make sure I didn’t skip a chapter.
Overall I’d say that I thought this was an extremely intense, and well written book. But it was also difficult in parts to read for me personally.