The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
A nineteenth century whaling expedition to the Arctic - among the crew, a disgraced Irish surgeon, a captain intent on insurance fraud and a serial killer. That makes it sound rather more commercially-focused than it really is. Instead, the focus is on the pithily -drawn characters who positively leap off the pages, and the powerful evocation of the Arctic setting in which the crew eventually find themselves stranded.
McGuire's storytelling focuses on essentials - the struggle for survival, the need for identity and the desire for a position in the world. The writing is often strikingly poetic, the world, and the men who inhabit it, frequently brutal, the challenges they face, elemental.
It all adds up to a compelling story of endurance, carefully researched, skilfully crafted, and powerfully told. At times the world that Ian McGuire creates seemed more real and solid to me than that one that lay beyond the covers of the book. Extremely enjoyable with a satisfying, if ever so slightly hurried, ending.