Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The North Water: A Novel Hardcover – March 15, 2016
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
“The North Water, Ian McGuire’s savage new novel about a 19th-century Arctic whaling expedition, is a great white shark of a book―swift, terrifying, relentless and unstoppable. [...] Mr. McGuire is such a natural storyteller―and recounts his tale here with such authority and verve―that 'The North Water' swiftly immerses the reader in a fully imagined world. [...] Mr. McGuire nimbly folds all these melodramatic developments into his story as it hurtles toward its conclusion. He has written an allusion-filled novel that still manages to feel original, a violent tale of struggle and survival in a cinematically beautiful landscape.”
―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Riveting and darkly brilliant….The North Water feels like the result of an encounter between Joseph Conrad and Cormac McCarthy in some run-down port as they offer each other a long, sour nod of recognition.”
―Colm Toibin, The New York Times Book Review
“[An] audacious work of historical suspense fiction...It's the poetic precision of McGuire's harsh vision of the past that makes his novel such a standout...absolutely transporting.”
―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
“Mesmerizing . . . . Told in grisly language that calls to mind Cormac McCarthy,The North Water begs such ontological questions as: What profit it a man who saves his skin but misplaces his soul?”
―Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal
“Bold and frightening, The North Water offers many satisfactions and little comfort. . . . Readers of Cormac McCarthy know that beautiful writing and bloody murder go together as well now as they did in Homer, and Ian McGuire proves it.”
―Jonathan Arac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Carries echoes of Melville and Lord Jim . . . engrossing . . . unsparing and utterly convincing.”
“A dark, brilliant yarn….An amazing journey.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“McGuire delivers…moments of fine prose that recall Seamus Heaney's harsh music, as when an iceberg is described as 'an albinistic butte unmoored from the desert floor.’”
“Raw and compulsively readable . . . think The Revenant for the Arctic Circle.”
“It’s one of those ones that you want to wake up at 5.30 in the morning so you can read some more.”
―James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books and managing director of Waterstones
“The North Water is a conspiracy thriller stuffed into the skin of a blood-and-guts whaling yarn… The novel is a stunning achievement, by turns great fun and shocking, thrilling and provocative. . . . Behold: one of the finest books of the year.”
“McGuire delivers one bravura set-piece after another….The North Water has, in places, a Conrad–Melville undercurrent, but for the most part it is Dickens’s influence that is most keenly felt….This is a stunning novel, one that snares the reader from the outset and keeps the tightest grip until its bitter end.”
“McGuire’s prose is fresh and vivid and his novel as a whole is atmospheric and intellectually fecund. Its surface might be awash with blood; but beneath it flows a current of dark and transporting beauty.”
“As a storyteller, McGuire has a sure and unwavering touch, and he has engineered a superbly compelling suspense narrative….As a stylist, too, McGuire is never less than assured. He has produced a fine addition to the maritime canon, but one that revivifies it with a thoroughly modern acuity of style. He has established himself, too, as a writer of exceptional craft and confidence…”
“Compared with this savage tale of Arctic survival, Leonardo DiCaprio’s bear-wrestling ordeal in The Revenant looks like something out of A. A. Milne….McGuire expertly arranges all this mayhem, and the narrative is horrifically gripping. The North Water is smoothly readable despite the horrors it depicts, and that’s testament to the quality of McGuire’s prose. Such fine writing might have been lifted from the pages of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.”
―Independent on Sunday
“It is a vivid read, full of twists, turns, period detail and strong characters. The setting is original too, and the description of harpooning and flensing of a whale have been forever etched on my memory. This melodramatic blood and urine-stained tale is an enjoyable contrast to most literary fiction.”
“Uncompromising in its language, relentless in the unfolding of its blood-soaked narrative, this is not a novel for the squeamish, but it has exceptional power and energy.”
“Terrific, seamed with pitch black humour and possessed of a momentum that's kept up to the final, unexpected but resoundingly satisfying scene….inspired.”
“The strength of The North Water lies in its well-researched detail and persuasive descriptions of the cold, violence, cruelty, and the raw, bloody business of whale-killing.”
“Beware: this book is quite a ride. The violence is ghastly, the queasy sense of moral decay all-pervasive. McGuire makes Quentin Tarantino look like Jane Austen….the language has a harsh, surprising beauty that contrasts the spectacular setting with the greedy bankrupt men who force their way northward, armed with harpoons for slaughter.”
“I utterly believed in the world that McGuire has created….amazingly impressive set-pieces….[The violence] underlines the point that he is trying to make, a Dickensian point, which is that all privilege rests on squalor.”
―BBC Radio 4 Saturday Review
“Full of foul deeds in a savagely beautiful setting, The North Water is a gripping, pitch-black yarn.”
―Sydney Morning Herald
“This is a novel that takes us to the limits of flesh and blood. Utterly convincing and compelling, remorselessly vivid, and insidiously witty, The North Water is a startling achievement.”
―Martin Amis, New York Times bestselling author of Zone of Interest
“It's a fast-paced, gripping story set in a world of gruesome violence and perversity, where ‘why?’ is not a question and murder happens on a whim: but where a very faint ray of grace and hope lights up the landscape of salt and blood and ice. A tour de force of narrative tension and a masterful reconstruction of a lost world that seems to exist at the limits of the human imagination.”
―Hilary Mantel, New York Times bestselling author of Wolf Hall
“The North Water is the rare novel capable of making a past time and place palpable. Ian McGuire writes with a poet's attentiveness to detail, which infuses this dark and violent novel with an unsettling beauty.”
―Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and Above the Waterfall
“The North Water is a whaling novel in the same way that Blood Meridian is a western. I enjoyed the brashness and the economy of the writing, the sense of humanity, and the sly, black humor. The novel wasn't afraid to take chances and I was surprised several times. I was always entertained. . . . An exceedingly well-written historical adventure.”
―Shannon Burke, author of Into the Savage Country
“If one took Melville's dream journal and compiled the nightmares into one harrowing novel, it would be Ian McGuire's The North Water. The claustrophobic conflict between the flawed humanity of Patrick Sumner and the supernatural evil of Henry Drax examines the brutal depths of the human soul.”
―James Scott, author of The Kept
“Enthralling and brutal. A vivisection of hard men in a cold world, and a propulsive, suspenseful adventure into the darkness of mortal existence.”
―Dennis Mahoney, author of Bell Weather and Fellow Mortals
About the Author
Ian McGuire grew up near Hull, England, and studied at the University of Manchester and the University of Virginia in the United States. He is the cofounder and codirector of the University of Manchester's Centre for New Writing. He writes criticism and fiction, and his stories have been published in Chicago Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. The North Water is his second novel.
Top customer reviews
The scene with the bear hunt and the scene of an iceberg sliding along the ice formation destroying everything--I can't get them out of my head.
I've tried to read Moby Dick and failed--it's my white whale of literature, so to speak. But maybe this book is just better in evoking whaling and the weirdness of the northland. Spellbinding.
One last note - McGuire obviously loves the English language, as do I, and I'm always grateful to an author who teaches me new words, while writing in a style that perfectly balances enlightenment and entertainment. "Stelliferous" is simply a beautiful word, as is "gallimaufry."
So with all that nautical lit background, I read McGuire’s North Water with much anticipation. While I think that the work is a solid piece of literature, I do have a few criticisms. Let’s deal with the positive aspects first. McGuire has a deep understanding and knowledge of the historical period about which he writes, mid-19th Century Great Britain. At the same time, he never falls prey to one of the worst temptations a historical novelist must deal with, the proclivity to include entirely too much information about a particular era to the detriment of the novel’s plot. His prose is also solid and he’s a proficient enough writer to show character rather than tell, that is, he lets the characters’ actions bring out their true natures. McGuire also has a gift for generating suspense. He effectively involves the reader in the desperate, repeated dangers faced by ordinary seamen aboard a whaling ship and does a vivid job of portraying the terrifying, body and soul destroying rigors involved in survival in an Arctic environment. McGuire is also plainly aware of the literary traditions that he works within, paying indirect tribute to the previously cited Moby Dick.
At the same time, I must say I thought the author’s treatment of his subject was rather cursory. The novel is pretty short, not much more than two hundred and fifty pages. While that leaves plenty of room to write a taut, effective narrative, it still seems rather puzzling (and dissatisfying) to have an author take on traditional, old fashioned themes (men at sea, the clash between good and evil, the essential nature of human character) and not deal with it at the magisterial, comprehensive, Olympian level of literature employed by such 19th Century masters as Hugo and Dickens. For example, while I think that the author does a good job of tracing the protagonist’s evolution from a defeated, ineffectual sad sack to a tough, determined man of the world, it seems to me that this could have been done more believably and interestingly if McGuire had allowed himself more scope.
A last point of criticism: the dichotomy between the novel’s hero, Patrick Sumner, and its villain, the harpoonist Henry Drax, often seems overly stark. While Sumner is portrayed as weak, fallible, and full of doubt, Drax is shown as always certain, in fact apparently superhuman, much like the line from the Yeats poem: “And the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.” The author does seem to intimate at several times during the course of the novel that Drax is somehow close to immortal, not subject to the regular rules of reality that usually trip up and destroy human beings. Without trying to give anything away to anyone who hasn’t read the novel, the sudden reversal of this tension at the end of the novel was rather jarring to me and detracted from the book’s persuasiveness as a work of fiction.
Despite these criticisms, I still think that The North Water is a well written, literary adventure novel that merits reading. I recommend it to anyone interested in sea literature.