Cover Image: The Night Ship

The Night Ship

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

**I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Kidd writes a heartwrenching story of a shipwreck, based on a true story, and how this event connects a young girl o the ship with a young boy on an island many years later. Kidd's novels make one think about situations - how one reacts to situations, focusing on individuals who could possibly be labeled as outcasts in society. There are parts of this novel that are hard to read, from the violence conducted by characters to the feelings of grief and loneliness felt by the characters. Yet, this narrative offers opportunities for hope and resilience.

Overall, I liked this novel.

Was this review helpful?

I wish I was able to give this a full give stars but I struggled to focus on the novel. It just wasn't my cup of tea but I know others that love it.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoy Jess Kidd’s writing. This book was in many ways just as good as her other work, but to be fair, I did round up the rating here, because it did leave something to be desired. It’s just difficult to put a finger on what that something was.
This is, as the title suggests, a novel about a ship. A ship made famous by wrecking and the horrific events that followed.
The story is told in dual narratives by two kid protagonists: in 1629, a young girl is on the way to meet her father in Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) when she becomes a witness to the terrible fates that befall the survivors of the shipwreck. In 1989, a young boy, traumatized by his mother’s death, accompanies his grandfather on the dig to uncover the remains of the shipwreck.
And so it goes, two young lives paralleling each other in tragedy. Though each narrative starts of as an adventure before it becomes a tragedy. And then of course, there is the absolutely nightmarish events that follow the shipwreck with some of the crew going wild with mayhem and murder.
It’s a rather long novel, though it doesn’t read particularly long. As I said, I’m not entirely sure why the narrative didn’t engage me quite as much as some of Kidd’s other work. Though I love historical fiction and nonfiction, have never heard of this story, and was interested to learn about it, there’s a strong chance I would have been much more impressed had she made up the story instead of uncovering it through research. It’s about the power of imagination competing with the power of creative re-creation.
Either way, it was a good read. Greatness is more of a subjective matter. Thanks Netgalley.

Was this review helpful?

First, I love this cover! I wanted to read it as soon as I saw it, between the cover and the interesting premise.

Unfortunately, this one did let me down quite a bit, and I found it a struggle to stay engaged. I enjoyed Mayken's story and timeline much more than Gil's, which is always a shame when there are dual timelines. The end finally picked up a bit, but overall this just wasn't for me despite the interesting subject matter.

Thank you NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

this one was not so good. I was bored within a few chapters. I recommend this for more science readers

Was this review helpful?

This was a hauntingly and beautifully written novel. Unfortunately, parts of the book throughout couldn’t keep my attention, but overall, I really enjoyed the base of the story.

Mayken was a fabulous character to read about. I adored how she managed to make connections with so many different people throughout her journey. She and her adventures fascinated me and hers was the timeline that I was most interested in.

I was impressed with how the author made parallels between Mayken and Gil’s storylines. It was very skillfully done as the two were artfully intertwined.

Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for this digital arc in exchange for my honest review which is not affiliated with any brand.

Was this review helpful?

This was definitely a little different from what I have been reading lately, in a good way! The cover is stunning and the writing matches. The author writes really beautifully that I think whimsical storylines are a perfect match. There was a lot more sadness to the story than I expected and it did take a little bit of time to get sucked in, but the dual timelines helped with keeping invested and keeping things interesting! I am excited for more books by this author!

Was this review helpful?

This was absolutely fascinating and beautifully written. Told in alternating narratives and timelines, chapter by chapter, we are introduced to two children: Mayken, aboard the ship Batavia bound from Holland to the Dutch East Indies in 1629 and Gil, in 1989, living on a desolate island where the remains of the shipwrecked Batavia have been found. Both of their tales are sad; Mayken bound to what is now Jakarta, Indonesia to join her father following the death of her mother and doomed to what we know is an imminent shipwreck (this is based on a true story!). And Gil, whose mother died and is sent to live with his surly Grandfather on a lonely island with few children and even fewer kindnesses.

While the story itself is heartbreaking, the characters that Kidd brings to life are so vibrant. And one can’t help but fall for both Mayken and Gil, two troubled but good children who only want to live happy and loved lives. Utterly captivating writing coupled with a fascinating story, this is one not to miss!

Was this review helpful?

I should have read the synopsis because I was like WHAT IS GOING ON at first, but I loved that I learned so much. I kept googling things about the VERY REAL VERY INSANE shipwreck this book is based on, and I have been recommending it all over the place.

Was this review helpful?

*4+ stars! Jess Kidd has intertwined two remarkable stories in her new work of historical fiction. One is the story of the ill-fated merchant ship, the Batavia, which set sail from the Netherlands on its maiden voyage in 1628. Destination: the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia). Two of the passengers onboard are Mayken and her nursemaid Imke. Mayken is being sent to live with her wealthy father in Batavia after the death of her mother. The second story is set in 1989 and is also about a child whose mother has died--a boy named Gil who is sent to live with his grandfather on an island off the coast of Western Australia. There he learns the story of an infamous shipwreck on these Houtman Abrolhos Islands, the name supposedly being a corruption of Portuguese meaning 'open your eyes:' a warning to stop ships hitting the reef and sinking. He also hears the tale that the island is haunted by the ghost of Little May, one of the survivors of the shipwrecked Batavia. Over 300 years separate the lives of these two children but the story reveals several fascinating things that link them.

So beautifully written! A tale of adventure with characters that won't soon be forgotten. My favorite character though is Mayken for all her daring and bravery, the strong bonds of friendship she forms with others. Gil is remarkable too but he's so terribly damaged by his experiences. Whenever a story is told through children's eyes like this, there is that element of their not truly understanding the adult world, of falling for fables and lies.

After seeing so many wonderful advanced reviews of this novel, I was thrilled to still be able to request an arc for myself from the publisher via NetGalley, even though the publication date had already passed. Many thanks for the approval! My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

I can’t connect with this story. I tried so hard to get into it, but the writing left me confused somehow. I wanted to push through, but there’s also too many books out there to read for me to continue

Was this review helpful?

I did not end up reading this novel. The rating is not a reflection of the story itself, but rather an indication that other books/stories dominated my interest and reading time. Which I think is an important factor when selecting your next read.

Was this review helpful?

The Night Ship
Posted on May 9, 2023




“As is the way with souls confined, tempers fray and flare, ill-spoken words fester, coincidences become intrigues. Minds seethe with resentment and revenge like the worms in the water barrels. As the ship spoils, so does the air between the people.”― Jess Kidd, The Night Ship.

1629: nine-year-old Mayken leaves the Netherlands with her nursemaid to join the merchant father she’s never met across the globe in the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken begins a secret, second life as the cabin boy Obbe, befriending a soldier, a sailor, a kitchen boy, and the ship’s barber-surgeon while trying to hunt down the eel-like monster Bullebak purported to live belowdecks.

1989: A lonely boy named Gil, also nine, is sent to live with his cantankerous grandfather on Beacon Island off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once lived. This is where the Batavia sank, and an archeological excavation of the wreck is now underway. The project intrigues Gil, as does the rumor that a ghost haunts the island.

The Night Ship is based on a true story that I found far more interesting than the novel. I went down a long bunny trail on this one:

On the morning of June 4, 1629, the Dutch East India flagship Batavia wrecked on Morning Reef off Beacon Island with 341 people aboard. Approximately 100 people died in the immediate aftermath. The following morning 180 people—among them 30 women and children—were ferried two kilometers to the island.

After an extensive search for fresh water, Commander Francisco Pelsaert sailed with his senior officers to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) to find help. Pelsaert left his deputy, Jeronimus Cornelisz in charge, who, unbeknownst to Pelsaert, had been plotting a mutiny prior to the wreck.

Cornelisz became a brutal dictator. He rationed food and confiscated all weapons. Any rafts made by survivors also had to be relinquished. He divided the population into smaller groups and spread them among the nearby islands, many under the pretense of searching for fresh water and abandoned to death. He then orchestrated a massacre that, over several weeks, resulted in the murder of approximately 125 of the remaining survivors, including women, children, and infants. The marauders cut people’s throats at night and took others out to drown on makeshift rafts. They kept some women as sex slaves.

It took three months for Pelsaert to return from Batavia with the rescue party. He took the worst of the mutineers to Seal Island and punished them—executioners cut off their right hands before hanging the men. Cornelisz lost both hands before his hanging on October 2, 1629.

After it was all over and they had executed all mutineers, only 116 Batavia survivors remained.

Although the intricately plotted parallel narratives worked, and the book had plenty of drama, this was a tough read for me. There was some witty writing in the 1989 timeline, but the pacing was slow, and the chapters were too short, making the writing seem disjointed. Mayken and Gil were motherless, which was already sad. Add an epidemic of dysentery, primitive medical care, rape, and murder, and you have a melancholy, disturbing novel. The Night Ship has a fascinating premise based on a historical event, but I never connected with the characters and found the plot too grim. 3 stars.

If you’d like to read more about this historical shipwreck, follow this link. https://www.sea.museum/2016/06/04/barbarism-and-brutality-surviving-the-batavia-shipwreck

*Thanks to the NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Was this review helpful?

This book read like a fairy tell to me it was beautifully written and was easy to get lost in but it is definitely a bit of a slow pace. This story follows two separate story lines one from the 1600s where sailors were ship wrecked and in the 1980s a boy named Gil who was sent to live in a fishing village his mom came from. We see both of the children coming of age and see them facing many different issues while growing up on the same island. Again I cannot say enough how lyrical and beautiful the writing is although this felt less like a historical fiction and more like a fairy tale even though this is based off a true story. I really enjoyed this book and could see my rating rising upon reread! I would like to thank Netgalley and the publishers for a chance to read this book for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Originally posted on my blog Nonstop Reader.

The Night Ship is a haunting and evocative story based on the shipwreck of the Batavia in 1629 written by Jess Kidd. Released 4th Oct 2022 by Simon & Schuster on their Atria Books imprint, it's 400 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. Paperback format due out in third quarter 2023 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a strikingly lush and complex tale told around the alternating timelines of the two lead characters, children, living their lives separated by more than 3 centuries. Based on the actual wreck of the Batavia in 1629, the author also skillfully weaves in imaginative folklore and fantasy from both European and Antipodean tradition.

The prose is often disturbing and brilliant in just about equal measure. Some of the descriptions are difficult; and the overall vibe is -very- melancholy and could be distressing for sensitive readers. Both the central characters are children; both suffering trauma, grief, and death. It's a book that will stay with readers.

Four stars. Very sad.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Was this review helpful?

Night Ship is a very creative and vivid juxtaposition of two timelines -- a 1600's Dutch sailing ship, and the 1980's Western Australia community new where the ship wrecked.

Both timelines feature kids who are forced to grapple with issues of identity and real or imagined monsters way ahead of their time; while also navigating the eccentric adults on which they depend that serve as unreliable recipients of their affection and trust.

Very creative and vivid..

Was this review helpful?

I love historical fiction and even more so when it based on a true story. This book is the story of 2 children whose lives are 300 years apart but still seem to mirror each other in many ways including the island they each end up on. Very interesting story and amazing how parallel.

Was this review helpful?

Eh. It was alright. Not my favorite of Kidd’s work but it still had a nice voice to it and interesting prose. There were times when I felt invested but overall I have a hard time getting into a book with only children POVs when the story itself isn’t juvenile. The time spent on the monster in particular I had to push myself through because I really just wanted more information from the adults about what was happening in reality.

I would recommend other books from this author before this one (particularly Himself or Things in Jars) but I will keep reading their books in the future for sure.


Note: I received a free electronic edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank them, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to do so.

Was this review helpful?

Two children, three hundred years between them, one intersection connecting them all.

This was a fascinating read from beginning to end. The characters were beautiful - connected by deep emotions like grief and trauma, their stories intertwined in such a powerful way. What I also enjoy is learning things from a book, I can truly appreciate that the experience was not only an escape but one that I can walk away from with some growth. In this case, the cultures of both dutch and Australian folklore as well as actual history of the shipwreck of the Batavia.

While this was an entirely enjoyable read throughout, the pacing is not my usual preference. It's a book that is meant to be savored, to truly appreciate the beauty of the characters, story, and culture embedded within.

Would highly recommend for those who love to get lost inside the story and let it take you on an emotional and fantastical journey.

Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for my eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Was this review helpful?

This book was a beautiful historical fiction. I had high hopes for this book, as I have previously read Things in Jars, and Himself, by the author and loved both. This book highlights social class and the brutalities of this period. It shows how far survival of the fittest one person will keep pushing for and try to persevere through. The story's imagery and the characters literally made my jaw drop at times.

Highly recommend this one to anyone who loves an enh=grossing historical fiction, mixed with a touch of magical realism and a dash of fantasy,

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review—my thanks to Atria for the opportunity to read this beautiful story.

Was this review helpful?