The North Water by Ian McGuire
The Last Word Review
As bone chilling tale on board a whaling ship and is as chilling as the Arctic waters. Ian McGuire has written a classic tale
The setting for Ian McGuire’s second novel is aboard the 19th – Century Yorkshire based whaling ship Volunteer but something is not right. On board is the usual mix of whalers but also on board for the first time is Patrick Sumner. Patrick has a past as an army surgeon, now broke with nothing better to do than join a hellish group on board ship setting sail to the freezing waters of the Arctic to hunt Whales.
Also on board is Henry Drax a harpooner. Drax is nothing more than a drunk and a filthy brutal thug and much more besides. This is the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Volunteer.
During the voyage to the bone chilling waters of the Arctic we get to meet the various characters on board, a dubious captain all keen to hunt whales and make money. There is a killer on board and I do not mean someone killing whales we have a drunken cold-blooded killer on the loose on board ship. We have flashbacks of Sumner’s past that tells us about the character who now finds himself embroiled on a voyage that is hellish beyond description.
The North Water is a brutal book beyond anything I have read in many a year. But bearing in mind this is a 19th Century based tale on life aboard a whaling ship the story contains violence and detail that is not for the faint-hearted it is a story from a lost world. The sheer brilliance of the McGuire’s writing is something to behold. It is told very much in the prose of an old dusty novel found in a vintage book store. It is that good.
It is not often that a book takes hold of you and delivers a punch that this novel packs, the sheer brutality of the story will shake most, it is gore in its description but the story is so captivating that you cannot put it down.
The North Water is visceral it is blood thirsty, it is a story of survival, with one of the most terrifying characters I have read in many years that will linger in my memory for some time to come. It also tells a story of courage in the face of the purest form of evil. If there is the slightest criticism I just wish the ending was more drawn out as I would have liked to have known more before I closed the book.
Ian McGuire’s second novel is destined for great things and is already one of my books of 2016. I have a feeling there are awards waiting to come as it is truly sensational. Don’t be put off the violence in The North Water and make this one book that you must read in 2016.
My thanks to Elizabeth Preston for an advanced review copy.
The North Water written by Ian McGuire. Published by Scribner UK on 11 February 2016