"The Surfacing", by Cormac James

The Surfacing - Cormac James

“The Surfacing” is a psychological novel about how a group of European sailors looking for Franklin’s expedition lived together after getting lost in the Arctic. They set sail in 1850.

This story is austere to read and I struggled to keep focus all through this drama. It begins with the ship, Impetus, leaving Greenland and navigating north till it gets stuck in pack ice where it remains for the rest of the story. Each chapter is dated and tells the day to day life aboard the ship during the two years the Impetus was trapped in winter’s grip. What gives this story an edge of expectation is when Morgan, the second in command realizes that on-board there is a pregnant stowaway disrupting their male world and that he is the father. The sharp prose is very poetic and is fabulously detailed, both in its historical research as well as how it depicts the harsh landscape. How many nuances can one give to ice and snow without being repetitive? Although this grim multi-layered subject moves in slow motion it nevertheless excels in fictionalizing the hope, hardship and heroism of the men.

In a few words “The Surfacing” was too tedious for my enjoyment, too obscure to have kept me captivating from the first page and like the high Arctic left me cold by the time I reached the ending. This novel was by far not my preferred book this year but again this is only the way I see it. You may have a totally different opinion.