The Surfacing

384 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781934137925


ISBN: 9781934137932

Share on Goodreads

“Gratifyingly defies expectations.”

New York Times Book Review

see more reviews hide reviews

“[A] harrowing Arctic adventure.”

( link)

“James uses the sublime appeal of the Arctic and the extreme situation of his characters as the stage for an essentially domestic psychological novel. . . . The prose matches the landscape, rigorously unadorned, returning the gaze of a reader led into a world without hiding places.”


( link)

“Although [The Surfacing] initially appears to focus on the unwinnable crusade of man against nature, at its centre is a love story—not a romance between adults but between a father and the son he learns to love. . . . A moving reminder that some of the biggest journeys in life don’t involve going anywhere at all.”

Financial Times

( link)

“As much Jack London as Daniel Woodrell. . . . James cleverly fashions a tense, controlled work that is bolstered by weighty research.”

Irish Examiner

( link)

“A stunning historical novel. . . . A chiseled, cool work of poetic brilliance. . . . A mesmerizing novel about never-ending ice, bitter cold, shipwrecks and fatherhood.”

Shelf Awareness

( link)

“A rare blend of adventure narrative and literary fiction, survival story and philosophical musing. . . . What emerges is a pure and transcendent vision of the joy of fatherhood.”

Historical Novels Review

( link)

“Hypnotic . . . a slow-burning psychological study. . . . Underneath all the ice, there is real emotional depth.”

Kirkus Reviews

( link)

“James’s sharp prose and attention to detail . . . leaves a lasting impression.”

Publishers Weekly

( link)

“An extraordinary novel, combining a powerful narrative with a considered and poetic use of language in a way that is not often seen these days. 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.”

John Boyne

“The great topic of Cormac James’ The Surfacing is the reach of human possibility. The prose is calm, vivid, hypnotic, and acutely piercing. James is attuned to the psychological moment: this is a book about fatherhood and all its attendant terrors. James recognizes the surfacing of love in the face of solitude. It’s a remarkable achievement, a stylish novel, full of music and quiet control. This is a writer that I’d like to see hurry—I’m looking forward already to the next book.”

Colum McCann

“Cormac James’ writing is very assured, with a harsh poetic edge. His evocations of barren landscape, sea weather, pack ice, and frozen skies are powerful and compelling.”

Rose Tremain

“I read The Surfacing in Gjoa Haven, where Franklin Expedition spirits seem to cry out on the winter winds, and Cormac James’ writing spoke through the midday twilight with the chill of a voice from the distant past. 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.”

Paul Watson, former Arctic correspondent for the Toronto Star and author of Ice Ghosts: the Epic Hunt For the Lost Franklin Expedition

Far from civilization, on the hunt for Sir John Franklin’s recently lost Northwest Passage expedition, Lieutenant Morgan and his crew find themselves trapped in ever-hardening Arctic ice that threatens to break apart their ship. When Morgan realizes that a stowaway will give birth to his child in the frozen wilderness, he finds new clarity and courage to lead his men across a bleak expanse as shifting, stubborn, and treacherous as human nature itself.

A harrowing tale of psychological fortitude against impossible odds, The Surfacing is also a beautifully told story of one man’s transformative journey toward fatherhood. “Fresh Pick for Your Fall Book-Club Meeting”

Excerpt from The Surfacing

Cormac James talks about The Surfacing with the Irish Examiner, shares his favorite books and authors with the Irish Times, and tells the Scotland Sunday Herald why he uses the pen name “Cormac James.”

Cormac James writes about the story behind The Surfacing at the Irish Times and discusses it on ABC Radio National’s The Book Show.