The North Water

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The North Water
Author Ian McGuire
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publication date

The North Water is a 2016 novel by English author and academic Ian McGuire.[1] McGuire's focus of study and field of interest is American realist literature [2] which is defined as, "...the faithful representation of reality" [3] The Guardian's reviewer writes, "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."[4] The headline of the Independent Book Review "Ian McGuire, The North Water: 'Subtle as a harpoon in the head, but totally gripping', book review"[5] reinforces the realist aspect of the writing.


The north water of the title is where ships sail to in the hunt to harvest whales. The novel opens in Hull where the industry is under threat with paraffin and coal oil replacing whale oil. We meet Henry Drax a harpooner who rapes and kills a child, "... a brute, a vacuum into which men and boys are sucked and do not emerge alive"[4] Joining as ships doctor is Irishman Patrick Sumner a disgraced former British army surgeon with a murky past in India. They set sail on the Volunteer under Captain Brownlee who lost his last ship and crew and in league with the owner Baxter intends to scuttle the Volunteer in an insurance scam.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Man Booker prize 2016: the longlist – in pictures". The Guardian. July 27, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Dr Ian McGuire". University of Manchester. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890". Washington State University. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "The North Water by Ian McGuire review – a voyage into the heart of darknesss 19 February 2016". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "Ian McGuire, The North Water: 'Subtle as a harpoon in the head, but totally gripping', book review 9 February 2016". Independent. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "Review: In 'The North Water,' a Journey to the Arctic Turns Cutthroat". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  7. ^ Alice (July 27, 2016). "Man Booker Prize announces 2016 longlist". Man Booker. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  8. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2016". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Zadie Smith and Rep. John Lewis; Thomas McGuane will be honored". Los Angeles Times. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  10. ^ "Best books of 2016". Chicago Tribune. 21 December 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  11. ^ "Royal Society of Literature Encore Award 2017" (PDF). Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 

External links[edit]