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Publisher's Summary

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 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 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.

©2016 Ian McGuire (P)2016 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"Fast-paced, gripping. A tour de force of narrative tension and a masterful reconstruction of a lost world." (Hilary Mantel)
"Utterly convincing and compelling, remorselessly vivid and insidiously witty. A startling achievement." (Martin Amis)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Damien
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 03-12-18

Not a morality tale!

For the frist several chapters this is a book that presents a pessimistic and gloomy portrayal of the human race. The tone is almost oppressive. Which is not to say it is a bad book. Depending on your state of mind this might be interesting or repellent. After this scene setting things start happening and the plot progression provides some respite from the gloom but it never leaves the novel.

Once the plot kicks in it continues at a decent pace to its conclusion. I was impressed with the writers ability to describe the physicality of the world his characters inhabit; there is no air-brushing away the filth or corporal reality.

John Keating was an excellent choice for the narrator; an excellent pairing for this novel.

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gripping story. rivetingly told and written

Loved it. Couldn't turn it off. the narrator is fantastic and it is beautifully viscerally engaging

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Good writing, believable characters and plot

Ian McGuire is a good writer. The story clips along, the characters are believable and the plot plausible. Enjoyed it.

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Fast paced, rated 18+

Great writing, great performance, fast paced and graphic. Some chapters not for the faint hearted! Totally sucked me in.

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needlessly horrific

A macho wet dream that didn't need to be written. It starts with the rape of a young child and goes downhill from there.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Kaggy
  • Kaggy
  • 02-21-17

A glorious and disturbing assault on the senses

This is a brutal but magnificent tale set on a whaling ship in the 1850's and telling the tale of Patrick Sumner, an Irish surgeon with a dubious past, who plans to spend his voyage reading Homer and feeding his laudanum habit. His plans quickly unravel when a cabin boy is raped and murdered during the voyage. Sumner is not prepared to allow the wrong man hang for the crime and thus finds himself pitched against the harpoon man Henry Drax who must be by far the most honest and unrelentingly evil depiction of a psychopath ever described in fiction.
This book however, is not merely a thriller but is something that completely engulfs your senses. Not only do you see and hear the characters but you are also able to smell and taste the foul and corrupt stenches that emit from the wholesale butchery of animals and from the men themselves. It depicts the overwhelming desire to survive, where even a broken barrel will be reconstructed, rather than squandered, but also the despair of men who begin to realise there is no longer any hope. The hero of this story is not a brooding macho character but is nonetheless somebody who thrills you with the sheer tenacity of his spirit and the humanity of his actions. It is possible to compare this to the Revenant; however I think this book far surpasses that simple tale of suffering and revenge.
The narration of John Keating was perfect, skilfully bringing out the nuances of each character and enabling me to listen without confusion.
I have just finished listening book and at the moment feel a little breathless and melancholy that the experience has ended. This is a sure sign I have been completely immersed in this stunning tale.
This gets a 100% recommendation from me - truly my book of the year and probably the last decade.

44 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Mark
  • Mark
  • 10-03-16

Epic, brutal and brilliant.

This is a superb novel that I absolutely loved and could not stop listening to. It is a great story that unfolds like a thriller. The language is coarsely, wonderfully evocative - reading by the 'eggy light of a blubber lamp'. Violent, profane as well as mystical - it is a staggeringly audacious piece of writing and brilliantly enjoyable to listen to. I bought the book too, so that I can go over my favourite passages. Seriously great literature.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for AEC
  • AEC
  • 11-15-16

Brilliant

I listen to a lot of audio books but don't often write a review....I make an exception for such a great listen. Get it and enhance a few hours of your life.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Brian
  • Brian
  • 08-24-16

Fluid and fluids

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Because I have a surprising number of friends who are into that whaling / snow / survival / grime genre but have been looking for something that mashes this up with psychopaths.

What did you like best about this story?

It's a cracker - fetid, foecal, visceral, funny, unpredictable, atmospheric and fast paced.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Not saying to avoid spoilers but there's a bit with a non- human protagonist...

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Maybe not a book for maiden aunts (though mine would love it) this is a book ultimately about loneliness, greed and motivation. Existentialist and grim - great fun!

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Tony
  • Tony
  • 01-07-17

Gripping. One of as the best books I've read

It has a marvellous plot - compelling and credible. The harsh life of whalers and the hard characters are evocatively described. The amoral Henry Drax is probably the most frightening fictional characters I've come across.
The quality of the prose is first rate and original. Some of the descriptive phrases are really memorable.
The narrator's voice does this great work justice.
superb

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for MooseMalloy
  • MooseMalloy
  • 09-24-16

And then . . .

Fantastic narrative and great narrator. Fantastic. A really great performance! Wonderful writing style. I have been looking for a proper new writer for ages.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Matt
  • 08-24-16

Great story

Really enjoyed this, story was engaging and the narrator is one of the best I have heard.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Neal
  • 11-21-16

A Great book

An excellent historical expose of the hardships of the time. Great language and great characters

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Patricia taylor
  • 10-14-16

northwater

what a great adventure this was ,the story had me on the edge of my seat with fear,bit disappointed it ended so abruptly,i will definitely try some more storys written by Ian Maguire. The narration by John Keating brought this adventure to life, i didnt want it to end its a thrilling STORY . PATRICIA.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jp Russell
  • 09-30-16

Brilliant

A perfect storm of story, characters an narration. Not for the physically or verbally squeamish - a no holds barred of life on a whaler. I hope the movie is brave enough to capture its grittiness.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ballina Beach
  • 05-24-17

North Water shimmers & shines

Haunting story. Absolutely gripping. Characters unforgettable, richly drawn, very human, all male cast but that's the whaling industry.
The reader is Irish, so works well with story line as Sumner is Irish late of the British army.
John Keating really made the story come alive. Book is a little bloodthirsty but again like the whalers

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  • Loveredshoes
  • 10-28-16

Gruesome

A refreshing, clever story. It has some interesting details about whale fishing. Humans can really be barbaric so be prepared for some ugly scenes. Overall I enjoyed it. It had a satisfying ending.

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Profile Image for Abby J Robinson
  • Abby J Robinson
  • 10-18-16

highly recommended

Best narration of any audio book I've listened to and great story. Very atmospheric

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Genevieve
  • Genevieve
  • 09-28-16

Excellent narration, gripping tale

What made the experience of listening to The North Water the most enjoyable?

The narrator is brilliant, didn't miss a beat with so many different accents and voices. The story is really gripping and the end definitely not expected...

What did you like best about this story?

Everything. So original, fast paced, clever, descriptive.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Probably the descriptions of the ice and the incredible hardship the men lived under.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me not want to stop listening....

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Beth
  • Beth
  • 09-21-16

Murderous<br /><br /><br />

Gripping and an enjoyable main character, Sumner. I particularly loved the dialogue between characters and the descriptions of the ice.







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Profile Image for Attila
  • Attila
  • 08-03-16

Fantastic historical fiction

Take themes right up there with Melville, the mastery pros of Hemingway, and mash with Bear Grills and you get The North Water. I cant describe how much I enjoyed this work of literature. By now I usually delete a finished audio book off my phone and move on to the next, but this time Iam starting The North Water a second time. Don't read about it in case you spoil the plot, as there are tons of turns and twists. Just get it and try to tell me that its not the best book so far in 2016. Anyone can enjoy this, those that like serious literature, those who like quick fun reads, and those of course that are fans of Moby Dick will especially be delighted. As you can guess Iam all three!!