The North Water

  • by Ian McGuire
  • Narrated by John Keating
  • 9 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


What the Critics Say

"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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- Kaggy

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.
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- Mark

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-06-2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK