The North Water

Author(s): Ian McGuire


A 19th-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp and highly original tale that grips like a thriller. Behold the man: stinking, drunk, brutal and bloodthirsty, Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaling ship bound for the hunting waters of the Arctic Circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money and no better option than to embark as ship's medic on this violent, filthy, ill-fated voyage. In India during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop and imagined he'd find respite on the Volunteer, but now, trapped in the wooden belly of the ship with Drax, he encounters pure evil and is forced to act. As the true purposes of the expedition become clear, the confrontation between the two men plays out in the freezing darkness of an Arctic winter.


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Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016

'A stunning achievement, by turns great fun and shocking, thrilling and provocative. Behold: one of the finest books of the year' -- James Kidd, Independent 

'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' -- Financial Times

'Horrifically gripping. Such fine writing might have been lifted from the pages of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick' -- Independent on Sunday

'Terrific, seamed with pitch black humour and possessed of a momentum that's kept up to the final, unexpected but resoundingly satisfying scene ... Inspired' -- Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

'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 ... a writer of exceptional craft and confidence' -- Paraic O'Connell, Irish times

'Raw and compulsively readable ... think The Revenant for the Arctic Circle' -- The Millions

'This book is quite a ride ... The powerful story and the riches of the setting do not romanticise the past' -- Erica Wagner, New Statesman

'The North Water has exceptional power and energy' -- Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

'A vivid read, full of twists, turns, period detail and strong characters ... An enjoyable contrast to most literary fiction' -- Robbie Millen, The Times

'Brilliant, fast-paced, gripping. A tour de force of narrative tension and a masterful reconstruction of a lost world' -- Hilary Mantel

'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. McGuire has an extraordinary talent' -- Colm Toibin, New York Times

'A novel that takes us to the limits of flesh and blood. Utterly convincing and compelling, remorselessly vivid and insidiously witty. A startling achievement' -- Martin Amis o

'Death is the making of The North Water, Ian McGuire's bloody, gripping novel set in the middle of the 19th century aboard the Volunteer ... 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 ... Powerful' -- New Statesman

'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. The Volunteer is rotten from the outset ... The ship becomes a morally null universe, isolated on the north water. There are echoes here of Conrad's Heart of Darkness' -- Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

'McGuire delivers not only arresting depictions of bloody destruction, but moments of fine prose that recall Seamus Heaney's harsh music. For noirish thrills in an unusual setting, McGuire has the goods and the gore' -- Kirkus Reviews

'A dark, brilliant yarn ... An amazing journey' -- Publishing News 

'Ian McGuire's second novel is an unflinching look at what men do, in extreme circumstances, for money, to survive, or for no reason at all. It has quite a lot in common with TV shows like HBO's Deadwood and its many descendants (including Peaky Blinders), and ... it grips like a horror movie. The North Water is self-consciously literary, thick with allusions to other books: Moby Dick, obviously; Conrad; Elizabeth Gaskell's only historical novel, Sylvia's Lovers; William Golding's Rites of Passage trilogy; Frankenstein; Dracula; McGuire's opening sentence is an ironic allusion to John's gospel but it also recalls the beginning of the novel that The North Water most resembles, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian' -- London Review of Books

'Blood, blubber and appalling human violence saturate a tale of a doomed 19th-century whaling voyage to the Arctic' -- The Sunday Times

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, and his first novel was Incredible Bodies. The North Water is his second novel.

General Fields

  • : 9781471151255
  • : Simon & Schuster Ltd
  • : Scribner UK
  • : 0.95
  • : February 2015
  • : 234mm X 153mm
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 336