The North Water by Ian McGuire (Man Booker long list)


imageWhile Humphrey snoozes, I am doing anything but that as I feverishly turn the pages of The North Water, one of my favorites from the Man Booker long list.

It isn’t the theme so much, although the story of the whaling ship and all its trials is mesmerizing. It’s the characterization, the creation of Henry Drax who is evil incarnate, and Patrick Sumner who is a surgeon with a darkness all his own, that hold my firmest attention.

Hilary Mantel said the novel is, “A tour de force of narrative tension,” and while what she has to say about narrative tension seems counter to what she has produced, with this sentence I would concur.

My summary in two words? Terrifying and compelling.

Fabulous stuff.

16 thoughts on “The North Water by Ian McGuire (Man Booker long list)”

    1. I cannot say if it is in the style of Moby Dick, as I have never read the classic (!), but I did mention on Twitter that this book created a terrible desire within me to pick up Herman Melville’s. The North Water is exciting and well written, both, which seems more and more a difficult combination to find.

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          1. Such a nice offer, but I read it twice in grad school for a course I had to TA and although I think it’s amazing I’d rather read something I haven’t read. But definitely yes to a group reading. Other Melville? Something else altogether?


            1. I completely understand wanting a new read! I would love another group read, even if it’s “just” you and I. Let me get the year of teaching off the ground, and the Man Booker long list behind me…perhaps in December? Something Russian? I love Russian literature in the winter…


              1. Ditto to getting the past the new school year! I’ll be in Hawaii for 10 days in December and plan to read a ton. Definitely into Russian! One thing I’m thinking about is Prus’s The Doll (Polish, but in the ballpark) if that appeals.


    1. I can see why you’d want to savor it! As for me, I’ve been on a mad tear since school began last week (at least I had to be there for Institute Days), and I wanted to read as much from the Booker long list as I could while I has the time.


  1. I just reviewed this book myself (17 Sept 2016). I couldn’t stomach is. I appreciate it was truly well written with amazing descriptions. But it was just these same descriptions. Too gory for me etc. I found your comment on the Shadow Panel blog re: Booker Prize about not bringing your own agenda or emotion to evaluating a book interesting. I can do that IF it doesn’t include animal cruelty and pedophilia. Then I can’t do it. I can keep an open mind in understand why it happens and why people write about it. I just cannot read it as it makes my stomach churn and throws me off for awhile. I think this is where the conflict in this book existed. It is so well written and no doubt was quite realistic to the days of whaling. But I couldn’t read it with my eyes open. I enjoyed your review though. It certainly has people talking about it.


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