I just finished…

“The North Water” by Ian McGuire. It was one of the novels (faithful readers will recall) I picked up and dropped while I waited for “Life and Fate” to clear.

It’s about a 19th century whaling expedition, to which Adele said when I told her, “Boy, is that setting the bar high.”

I can’t say McGuire cleared it.

He did a lot of research. He tells, with convincing authority, you how things looked and sounded and smelled. (He probably unloaded more smells in four pages than Grossman in 850.)He was excellent (I guess) at describing what it would be like to starve/freeze to death in the Arctic, which is fine, if that knowledge seems of interest. (One character pulls off a survival trick he may have learned from Leonardo DiCaprio. Boy, McGuire, whom I’m betting wrote it first, must have been pissed when that movie came out.)

Basically, “Water” is plot driven. Oh, it has the obligatory remarks about evil and God, with not one, but two, religious spokespeople (a priest and a Swedenborgian)but characters (to me) seem to act to often out of story considerations rather than reasonable human motivation. The plot is compelling. I sure wanted to find out who was going to kill who at the end, though, personally, I found the resolution fine on one level, lacking on another.

Basically, I thought, if you are looking for psychotic killers and riffs on unseemly human behavior, “The Schiz,” available from this very web site, is superior. Admittedly though, according to “Water”‘s cover, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, Michiko Kakutani, Colm Toibin, and the Booker Prize Committee disagree with me.

But who you gonna trust?