Hand over hand, Petersen drew the rope out of the water. The gap between the two ice pans was barely a foot wide. Morgan watched the man coiling the rope nicely onto the ice. Inside him, a stupid hope had already bred, that the boy might still be attached to the end of it. He would come up laughing and spluttering, amused as much as relieved.
Morgan is second-in-command of the brig Impetus, dispatched in 1852 to the Arctic in search of Franklin’s lost expedition. It is late in the year and the ice is closing in when Morgan, ensconced in this wholly masculine world, learns that the ship is carrying a stowaway—a woman. Pregnant with his child.
It is too late to turn back. The child will be born into this vast frozen wilderness. And Morgan must set out on a voyage of deliverance across a bleak expanse as shifting, stubborn and treacherous as human nature itself.
‘A remarkable achievement…A stylish novel, full of music and quiet control.’
‘Extraordinary…Reading the book, I recalled the dramatic natural landscape of Jack London and the wild untamed seas of William Golding. Cormac James’ writing is ambitious enough to be compared with either.’
‘Very assured, with a harsh poetic edge…powerful and compelling.’
‘The cool precision of James’s writing draws you on as surely as if you’re there, trapped in that claustrophobic interior with the vast northern landscape stretching forever outside.’
‘This is a book for grownups, one that finds its best hope not in romance or friendship or the drama of seeking and finding, because none of those things happen, but in the capacity of human beings to endure…an austere pleasure to read.’
‘A highly original and poetic story of isolation and responsibility upon the sea…Writers as diverse as Homer, Conrad, Melville and William Golding have led the way [with ship-based narratives] and James picks up the baton – or oar – wielding it with great skill…The writing sparkles with inventiveness. The real strength of the novel, however, lies in the powerful descriptions of nature at its wildest, vivid images of sea and sky, and the carefully constructed dialogue of the men.‘
‘An engrossing, well-researched read. However, it is James’ willingness to break free from the limitations of the traditional Arctic tale that takes the novel beyond the genre and widens its appeal.’
‘A slow-burning psychological study…James expertly captures both the terror and the overwhelming boredom of sea life.’
‘The Surfacing achieves a hard-won emotional punch.’
‘Like the High Arctic world that he masterfully conjures, his storytelling is beautifully stark and captivating. The Surfacing lures with the tundra’s promise: new life can come from death.’
‘A nuanced meditation on fatherhood…The joy is in the prose, lyrical but not overblown, and the winningly straightforward plot.‘