The North Water

The North Water
Genre : Fiction
Published : 11 Feb 2016 - Scribner


Behold the man. Stinking, drunk, brutal and bloodthirsty, Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaling ship that is setting sail 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 ill-fated voyage. In India during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop 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 clearer, the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an Arctic winter.


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

This is a novel that tales 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

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

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

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. In short, The North Water is an exceedingly well-written historical adventure.

Shannon Burke, author of Into the Savage Country

[A] stunning novel, one that snared the reader from the outset and keeps the tightest grip until its bitter end.

Malcolm Forbes, Financial Times

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.

David Evans, The 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

Daily Mail

It is... an exceptionally powerful narrative of a man driven to the limits of his endurance and, once read, it is unlikely to be forgotten.

BBC History Magazine

As a storyteller, McGuire has a sure and unwavering touch, and he has engineered a superbly compelling suspense narrative.

The Irish Times

There are echoes here of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

Showing 5 of 11 reviews

Other books by Ian McGuire