Nominated by:

LINC Tasmania, Australia

Miami-Dade Public Library System, USA

Milwaukee Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Scribner, UK

Henry Holt & Company, USA

The North Water

Ian McGuire    

1859. A ship sets sail with a killer on board . . . A man joins a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle. Having left the British Army with his reputation in tatters, Patrick Sumner has little option but to accept the position of ship’s surgeon on this ill-fated voyage. But when, deep into the journey, a cabin boy is discovered brutally killed, Sumner finds himself forced to act. Soon he will face an evil even greater than he had encountered at the siege of Delhi, in the shape of Henry Drax: harpooner, murderer, monster . . .

About the author

Ian McGuire grew up near Hull and studied at the University of Manchester and the University of Virginia, USA. He is a founder and co-director of the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing. His stories have been published in the Chicago Review, Paris Review and elsewhere. His first novel was Incredible Bodies. The North Water is his second novel.

(from publisher)

Librarians’ comments

Thrilling and well written, a very dark tale set on a 19th century whaling ship. Our staff couldn’t put this one down!

In the late 1850s the whaling industry is dying as the need for the mammal’s oil is giving way to petroleum, but whaling in The North Water is only a ruse for insurance fraud. There are two central characters aboard the ship, Henry Drax, a psychopath, and Patrick Sumner, a failed physician coping with a broken reputation. This story has copious amounts of raw violence and filth so swift and sure that it’s hard to believe that the men have the ability to scheme and calculate. The arctic cold and the dirty, diseased, and smelly conditions aboard the ship make the reader marvel at what the body can endure while pondering how routinely it can fail from acts of bludgeoning and rape. The novel leaves the reader wanting to forget the vivid, graphic actions of Drax’s debauchery, but I will never forget Sumner’s determination to make things right.

This is a grisly and raw tale with thoughtfully developed characters, fascinating period points and well rendered settings. The few acts of compassion between men while in great peril are significant and touching.

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