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The North Water by Ian McGuire (Audiobook version)

The Blurb

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.

About Ian McGuire

Ian McGuire is the author of The North Water published by Henry Holt in March 2016. Ian grew up in East Yorkshire, and studied at the University of Manchester in England and the University of Virginia in the United States. He is the co-founder and co-director of the University of Manchester's Centre for New Writing. He has published short stories in The Paris Review, The Chicago Review and elsewehere. The North Water is his second novel.

My Review

Make no bones about it, this is a full-on onslaught to our modern-day sensitivities. Set in the 1850's when the whaling industry is under threat from competition from paraffin and coal mining. The whole culture for whaling is portrayed as a harsh, brutal lifestyle, and the atmosphere is viscously cold and miserable, where survival is only for the fittest who trust nobody. This bleak reality has the same appeal to me that Russian literature has such as 'A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, depicting the life in a Siberian labour camp, and 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about the mental anguish of an impoverished student. Looking for joy, then look elsewhere. This was totally engaging, and the narration by John Keating was spoken in way that detached me from my 21st century world and transported me back to a virtual reality that didn't hold back in so many ways, in order for me to have an authentic experience of life in the mid-nineteenth century whaling industry.

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