A Maritime Reading List: Background information when reading The North Water

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The North Water

A Novel

by Ian McGuire

The North Water by Ian McGuire X
The North Water by Ian McGuire
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 272 pages
    Mar 2017, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

A Maritime Reading List

This article relates to The North Water

Print Review

The North Water is a gritty, graphic novel about 19th-century whaling. Here are a few additional maritime adventures.

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Rush Oh! In this rollicking debut novel, Mary Davidson, an Australian whaler's daughter, looks back at 1908 – a catastrophic whaling season but her first chance at romance. At 19 she is in charge of the household and raising her five brothers and sisters. She also cooks the whalemen's meals, which brings her into contact with new crewman John Beck, a Methodist preacher with a mysterious past. Meanwhile, her comely sixteen-year-old sister Louisa falls for an Aboriginal crewman. Where The North Water is brutal, this is gently funny and observant of animal behavior.

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

We, the Drowned From the first line onwards, this doorstopper is an enthralling combination of history and legend. Jensen traces the history of Marstal, an island off the coast of Denmark, from war with the Germans in the 1850s through the aftermath of World War II. Over the decades readers meet four generations of fathers and sons, whose journeys reflect the island's dependence on the sea. Using first-person plural narration almost like the chorus in a Homeric myth allows Jensen to show every situation from the inside, but also to introduce occasional doubt about what happened.

Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

Prophets of Eternal Fjord After two and a half months of sailing on rough seas, Norwegian-Danish priest Morten Falck arrives in Greenland in 1787. Approaching his missionary role with naïve optimism, he's disappointed with the natives right away. Their religion blends ancient customs like shamanic séances and ancestor worship with Christian imagery and scripture. The womanizing Morten isn't exactly a model priest, yet he's a trailblazer in some ways, willing to defend interracial marriage and bend the Church's rules when human circumstances merit it. Like The North Water, this is edgy and sexualized.

The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page

The Collector of Lost Things In 1845 English naturalist Eliot Saxby sets out on Captain Sykes's Arctic-bound vessel to search for the last traces of the great auk, a bird presumed extinct. Saxby's task is to bring back evidence that will prove the bird's fate once and for all. On board the Amethyst are many salty characters, including Sykes himself, a jovial but possibly sadistic leader; Talbot, the taciturn second mate; Edward Bletchley, a gentleman coming along for hunting adventures; and his cousin Clara Gould – whom Saxby is convinced he knows under a different name.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea This harrowing historical page-turner brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex – the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by a sperm whale. The crew made for South America in three tiny boats. During 90 days at sea, the survivors clung to life but one by one succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

See also our On the High Seas shelf.

Article by Rebecca Foster

This "beyond the book article" relates to The North Water. It originally ran in May 2016 and has been updated for the March 2017 paperback edition.

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