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Far North: A Novel Hardcover – June 9, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374153531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374153533
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Theroux's postapocalyptic road novel will inevitably be compared to that other postapocalyptic road novel Oprah liked, and while Theroux (son of Paul) is not the existential stylist McCarthy is, he is a superior plotter. Global warming has decimated civilization, and narrator Makepeace Hatfield is the sole survivor of her Siberian settlement. After coming across another survivor and seeing a plane in the sky, Makepeace heads out to find other settlements. Unfortunately, Horeb, the first settlement she finds, is Hobbesian, and the camp's leader, Reverend Boathwaite, sells her into a slave gang. Marched a thousand miles west to an old gulag, Makepeace spends five years as a slave and eventually escapes after she's dispatched as a slave-guard to a ravaged city now known as the Zone. Teaming up with another escaped slave, the two try to trek back to Makepeace's original home, but tragedy strikes again. Granted, the novel suffers from a certain predetermination—to tell the tale means that the taleteller survives—but Theroux succeeds in crafting a wildly eccentric and intelligent page-turner that's ultimately and strangely hopeful. (June)
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Review

“How refreshing to meet Makepeace Hatfield, who faces a world gone wild with hope, humor, and a scrappy tenacity that manages to find beauty in a ravaged arctic landscape, and hangs on to humanity against all odds.” —Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness

“Theroux is a master storyteller, and the narrative is as full of surprises as it is of murders. And in Makepeace he’s created the moral centre of a heartless world: hardened by . . . experiences [yet] capable of great courage, friendship and loyalty, so that the bleak vision of this novel contains a glint of consolation.” —Brandon Robshaw, The Independent on Sunday (five stars)

“An absorbing end-of-days fable.” —GQ

“It’s a great pleasure to fall into the pages of a natural-born storyteller. If you’re looking for an unforgettable character, your search ends here.” —Russell Hoban, author of Riddley Walker

“Imaginative and extremely well written.” —Kate Saunders, The Times (London)

“An atmospheric tale of a near-future dystopia . . . One for fans of Margaret Atwood.” —Evening Standard

“Marcel Theroux delivers a masterly sleight-of-hand . . . and after the third chapter deftly pulls the rug from under the reader’s feet. I was completely duped. It is set in a cruel Siberian landscape that is dotted with slave camps and where ‘human beings are rat-cunning and will happily kill you twice over for a hot meal.’ This is an action-packed, dystopian adventure story with cracking set pieces.” —Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

“Theroux’s postapocalyptic road novel will inevitably be compared to that other postapocalyptic road novel Oprah liked, and while Theroux . . . is not the existential stylist McCarthy is, he is a superior plotter . . . Theroux succeeds in crafting a wildly eccentric and intelligent page-turner that’s ultimately and strangely hopeful.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


More About the Author

Marcel Theroux is the author of four novels, A Blow to the Heart, A Stranger in the Earth, The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, and most recently, Far North, which is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Gamma on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I learned about Far North from a brief review in the London Financial Times. I don't typically read "post apocalyptic" novels (how many are there, anyway?) but the concept of this novel sounded interesting. This is the first book I've read by Marcel Theroux, and given this excellent novel, I'll be looking for others. Once I started reading Far North, I found it hard to put down. I found that I just wanted to know what happened next to this very interesting and complex character, and the revelations come a bit at a time - like peeling an onion, layer by layer. It is a thought-provoking book, and the writing style has that high quality where you read a sentence, pause, and then just absorb how much meaning that Mr. Theroux is able to pack into just a few words. Right on the first page, the main character contemplates the state of middle age and says "somewhere along the ladder of years I lost the bright-eyed best of me." I found that lines like that just hit home with me, connected me to the character, and drew me into the novel. I recommend it!
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
First--DO NOT read the blurb on the inside jacket or any of the comments/guest reviews printed on the back cover. They give away the general trajectory of the outcome and serve as inadvertent "spoilers." Moving on, the novel itself is of the post-apocalyptic journey genre--generally a bit above average in construction, narration, twist and reader interst. Not quite as intense as McCarthy's "The Road"---but certainly well worth your time.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on April 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Post-apocalypse survival tales seem to be all the rage at the moment, with Marcel Theroux's latest novel, "Far North", joining the growing ranks of books providing a gaunt vision of a not too distant future, in which mankind is reduced to a basic, brutal struggle for survival in a world torn apart by warfare, plague and environmental disaster.

The 'vain quest' and 'preservation of morality' elements of "Far North" contrast interestingly with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", with which it shares a similar landscape and equally bleak outlook. Both books concentrate on the individual's raw battle against the odds to maintain their humanity and sense of morality when faced with the single most basic of survival options -- to kill or to be killed. Theroux's first person perspective gives us a deeper, personal insight into these struggles, while McCarthy leaves his reader simply observing the behaviour and its effect, and therefore freer to form one's own value judgements -- in some ways a more powerful approach than the more standard spoon-feeding one adopted by Theroux. McCarthy spends less time on back-story too, thereby emphasising his protagonists' current predicament as the real issue, not their life-story and its direction towards some point of closure. Again, his tale is all the more powerful for that; in "Far North" the back-story is an essential part of the overall narrative tale and continues to drive the storyline right to the very end, once again giving the story a more traditional feel to it. Things are a little more subtly nuanced with Theroux, though.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By saintmaur on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This novel started out with a bang (literally) and its cold and ominous atmosphere hooked me immediately as few of my recent reads have done. The first chapters were riveting: one unexpected scene after another while the author skillfully wove in the larger historical and political background as we went. Theroux also developed a sort of homespun metaphysic for Makepeace that allowed her to survive. and make sense of, her dangerous post-apocalyptic world. Her suicide attempt, aborted with the sight of a plane droning overhead, was only one of many splendidly conceived scenes.

Why then did my disappointment mount as the novel went on? Perhaps it was because the next 300 pages were more of the same: the same sorts of surprises, more bad guys who can't help it, the same edge-of-the-cliff crises. The story began to resemble more the Perils of Pauline than the organic development of a character within a evolving narrative. Neither the main character or the novel ever moved to a different level (a requirement of the more ambitious literature that this tries to be).

It is illustrative of this developmental failure that the final scenes required the manufacture of a coincidence (Makepeace meeting again a major figure from her childhood); as Aristotle noted, creating coincidences (deus ex machina) to close a narrative rather than using the logic of character and organic plot development is a failure of literary imagination.

As an example of Theroux's failure to develop character, I never quite believed in the femininity of Makepeace. Granted, she had `masculinized' herself to survive in this macho defined world. Still, I never got the sense from this male author that his main character was, underneath it all, a woman.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bird Brain on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
REVIEW UPDATE: About halfway through the novel the social story (finally) begins. Until then it's anything goes for this illogical arctic adventure story.

The story depends greatly upon its setting in an environment which is imagined by a writer with little knowledge and experience and who is not a wilderness traveler. The account is so full of outlandish empirical flaws that it is impossible to read by anyone with firsthand experience of the northern climes. The factual problems are too distracting.

1. Leaving camp by midmorning in the far north during winter means it would still barely be light out. There is no real daybreak in winter. So you can't have been preparing for hours to leave since daybreak and then set out in late morning as well. The late morning is daybreak, and in fact the day essentially remains dark. The author (or perhaps those who were contracted by the publisher to verify facts) appears not to have given a moment's thought concerning the shortened days of the arctic winter.

2. There are no wild reindeer. And reindeer are smaller and have shorter legs than their caribou cousins. Caribou are not domesticated, reindeer are, and caribou are not tractable like reindeer. The story's discussion is all about caribou first off, then suddenly there appears a scene with a character riding a reindeer ... what? Where is that animal from? Perhaps a delivery from an Amazon drone? There seems to be no recognition of an important difference between reindeer (a domesticated her animal) and caribou, which are not herded.

There is a strong sense of a story being written with a child's idea of north, given this and other examples: someone dies from a rattlesnake bite. Oh really. Think as well of a cartoon of a frozen lake thawing.
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