I don't know why I have such a particular affinity for these whaling tales, but recently I recognized that I gravitated toward them. And being that authors are continually revisiting the subject, it's obvious I am not alone in my appreciation. The North Water bears many similarities to the classic whaling tale, but probably has more in common with the writing of Jack London and Cormac McCarthy than Melville. Aside from some wonderfully drawn characters and explorations of psychology, this is an adventurous novel filled with an abundance of grisly scenes of violence toward man and animal.
Perhaps it was just me and my aforementioned appreciation for whaling stories, but I did feel that the second half of this novel—largely taking place away from whaling—was considerably less appealing than the first half. So much action and intrigue develops in this second half, however, and so I was not horribly disappointed.
The North Water is a gruesome tale of man versus nature and man versus man—which of the two is more dangerous is a question you may ask yourself while reading this novel.