Thanks to Paul and Alice for getting me this book for Christmas, following the unerring logic of "well, it has a whale AND a ship on the cover". Once I picked up The North Water, I couldn't put it down, and raced through it as befits a book that's all told in a kind of breathless present tense, and is full of action and incident, not to mention Arctic shipwrecks and other things I'm very fond of. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the book is not a murder mystery, despite what the Saturday Review people said about it. I was unpleasantly unsurprised, though, to see that it is one of Those Modern Historical Novels, which have to tell you on every page how much everything reeks. Nobody can have a conversation without hacking into the dangling jawbone of some unfortunate animal, and everyone within a six-mile radius is vomiting, getting buggered, contracting a venereal disease, or witnessing the death of some terrified and hollow-eyed child. It's all a Bit Much, and very bleak. Still, fairly clips along, and if you want to read a Cormac McCarthyesque story set on a Greenland whaler, well, this is the book for you.