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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Worth reading to the conclusion of The North Water

Final word on Ian McGuire's 2016 novel, The North Water: Clearly not a novel for all readers, but if you can work your way through the first chapters and steel yourself for a series of gruesome scenes involving brutal fights, sodomy, butchering of animals, consumption of raw seal blood and organs, freezing Arctic conditions, crude language to the extreme, mistreatment and denigration of women, primitive medical treatments including an appendectomy performed the field - well, you get the drift - it's really a gripping story told in high style. McGuire builds to a dramatic and startling violent conclusion, and then ends with a chapter that's surprisingly pacific, involving redemption and sorrow - I won't give any of that away, but if you find yourself at all captivated by the narrative it's worth pursuing to the end. As noted her and in previous posts, McGuire is a really talented writer, with a vast working vocabulary and a smart sense about 19th-century arcana, in particular whaling, medical practices, and the Arctic populations. But he wears his research lightly and never - well, rarely - seems to be showing off to earn special props. I have no idea what McGuire may be working on now, but hope he'll go easier on the gore and profanity that will inevitably put off many of his potential readers.

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