Dear Great Book Guru, I went to a commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising at Cooper Union in Manhattan recently, and I was very impressed with how much the labor movement here and abroad has done to improve the lives of workers. One of the people attending mentioned a beautifully written but horrific new book about working conditions on an Arctic whaling ship. Are you familiar with this book?
Student of the 1916 Rising
Dear Student , I too was very impressed with the 1916 Easter Rising commemoration at Cooper Union. The book you mention is a tale of great brutality and poetic beauty: THE NORTH WATER by Ian McGuire. Patrick Sumner is a disgraced Irish physician left with few options who enlists as a medic on the Volunteer, a whaling vessel bound for the Arctic- the North Water. On board is a bloodthirsty, drunken harpooner Henry Drax and a crew of wretched men under the command of the ill-fated Captain Brownlee. Before the journey ends, many are dead and all semblance of civilization destroyed. This book is a carefully crafted mystery with many shocking twists and turns, a chronicle of the 19th century shipping and whaling trade, an historical perspective on British/ Irish class hostilities, and ultimately an indictment of the cruelty and perversity of humankind. A difficult but very rewarding read!