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The Night Ship

di Jess Kidd

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3992064,223 (3.66)2
1628. A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks. 1989. A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck.… (altro)
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This is a dual timeline historical fiction based around the true events of the 1700s Batavia shipwreck and mutiny off the Western Australian coast. The first story involves Mayken, a 9 year old Dutch girl, on her way to Batavia in 1628, to live with her father after the death of her mother. The second storyline features lonely 9 year old boy Gil who is taken to the Abrolhos Islands 300 years later to live with his crusty old grandfather Joss, a cray fisherman, after his mother has passed away.

I have always been intrigued by the story about the Batavia, which was shipwrecked in 1629, on the Abrolhos Islands, while on its maiden voyage to Batavia (Jakarta). The ship was commanded by two men: upper merchant, Francisco Pelsaert and skipper Ariaen Jacobsz, both of whom already hated each other prior to the voyage. Mutiny was brewing prior to the fatal shipwreck. After running aground many of the passengers were offloaded onto small islands nearby, others had to be left on the ship and were drowned. Francisco Pelsaert made the decision to take a group of 48 people in an open long boat and make their way 3,200km to Batavia to get help. Amazingly this was successful, but by the time the rescue boat returned the remote islands had turned into a scene of brutal massacre and carnage. Jeronimus Cornelisz, the Under merchant, took charge, and with a group of thugs set themselves up on Batavia’s Graveyard (now Beacon Island) and began to systematically eliminate the survivors, including the children, to reduce competition for food and the chance of being hung for mutiny if the rescue ship returned. Some of the women were kept alive as sex slaves. Cornelisz and his men disarmed and marooned the loyalist soldiers in the group on nearby West Wallabi island. Instead of perishing, this group found water, and under the leadership of Wiebbe Haijes, withstood attacks on them, and were able to intercept the rescue ship Sardam first and tell their version of the gruesome events. Pelsaert executed Cornelisz and some of the mutineers on the islands, two men were left on the coast of Western Australia, and the rest sailed to Batavia. Of the original 341 ship inhabitants only 122 made it back to Batavia with at least 125 having been murdered on the Abrolhos, others having drowned or perished.

Jess Kidd’s version is beautifully written and atmospheric but some of the events are lost in the childish recount of the story. I felt too much time was spent following Mayken’s search for an eel monster, the Bullebak, instead of helping us understand the mutiny and events. Gil faces a similar fearsome monster, the Bunyip, based on local Indigenous folklore. Both children face terrible tragedy and heartbreak. Gil is considered weird by the rough islanders and persecuted by both adults and children. His only solace is his pet tortoise Enkidu (named for the Gilgamesh epic).

This was a well-written atmospheric story but probably got itself overly caught up with monster stories, which may not have been entirely necessary given the monstrous reality actually occurring. ( )
  mimbza | Apr 7, 2024 |
I love Jess Kidd’s books . This one has the usual blend of folklore, mythology, history, horror and the supernatural (or is it.)If you know the story of the Batavia, you won’t go in expecting a walk in the park, and you certainly won’t get one. She makes you care about the two child protagonists and then deftly flips back and forth between the two tales. I saw others complaining about it, but I felt that it served to heighten the suspense. She subtly creates empathy for outcasts in all her books and leaves you hoping for a happy ending. Do you get one at all in this book…. Still thinking about it. ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Man oh man, I just couldn't get into this. I didn't really care for either storyline, and when I considered where I thought it might be going and if it was worth sticking it out to get there, I drew a blank. I have no idea where it's going, and not in a good way. This was just a bit too slow and unclear for me. I found myself asking "what's the point?" of it a lot, which isn't always a blocked for me but in this case it was. I might give this another try when I'm feeling more ponderous.
  Jenniferforjoy | Jan 29, 2024 |
Two orphans, a girl and a boy, separated by 360 years, are marooned on the same island off the coast of Australia in Jess Kidd's beautiful 2022 novel “The Night Ship.” And when I call it beautiful, I refer not just to the story she tells but also to the clothbound book itself. Publishers don't always give such artistic attention to novels, but Atria did so here with the cover design and the inside art. The pages are even a physical pleasure to turn.

As for the story, Mayken is aboard the Batavia bound from Holland to the Dutch Indies in 1629 in the company of her nursemaid, Imke. But while Imke sleeps at night, Mayken loves to explore the ship, even breaking all rules, disguised as a boy, to roam below decks in search of a monster she believes to be hiding there. Through her wanderings she meets a variety of men and women aboard the ship, many of whom will later help her and others who turn out to be worse than any imagined monster.

The Batavia wrecks, with most of the passengers finding their way to a small island with no fresh water and little food other than what can be salvaged from the ship. The novel turns into The Lord of the Flies revisited as men divide and seek to conquer the limited resources, women included.

In 1989, the death of his mother sends young Gil to this same island, where his grandfather, Joss, is a fisherman at odds with most of the other fishermen on the island. Gil is described as weird, and some of his actions deserve that adjective. Like Mayken so many years before him, he becomes targeted, especially after other boys come to the island to summer with their fathers.

Meanwhile scientists on the island dig for artifacts to try to determine exactly what happened to the Batavia and its passengers. Much of this story is based on historical events.

Kidd takes us back and forth in time to tell two stories that gradually become one. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Nov 5, 2023 |
This is the book authored by Jess Kidd I read. Kidd has a unique way of weaving the events of the actual voyage of The Batavia and its subsequent wrecking into a page-turning read.

Written as a novel, it is clear that Kidd did her due diligence to learn what happened to the Batavia and how its wreck linked generations 300 years apart. As I read these pages, I could readily visualize all the trials and tribulations, joyfulness of stories shared between Mayken & Imka, and Mayken and Holdfast. I experienced the grief shared by so many on that voyage and by Gil, Dutch, Joss, and others set in the 20th century.

While I couldn't read it all in one day, it only took me 10 hours total to read it all. ( )
  prudencegoodwife | Jun 21, 2023 |
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May you be spared such a moment of recognition as this - namely the conviction that most of your happiness lies behind you, and the lion's share of your lonliness looms ahead.
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1628. A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks. 1989. A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck.

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