Cover Image: The Night Ship

The Night Ship

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Member Reviews

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.

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The Night Ship, the two parallel stories of Mayken and Gil, eventually will connect making this book even more magical and very different that any story you have ever read before.

The Night Ship is not your typical story, it has many supernatural elements that will keep you hooked on your chair and will make you want to keep reading until the next page. it is the story of a ship that transpired in Batavia in 1629. A ship has sail carrying women, children, and an orphan to unknown waters and destinations, as well as new experiences that soon will bring tragedy.

Maykens mother has recently died and he finds himself all alone in this world, at such a young age, he is left alone to fend for himself and all the tragedies this world could bring. A similar situation is happening in 1989 with Gil.

Gil was a 9 years old boy living with his grandfather, on an island far away from anything he used to know, his grandad enjoyed telling him stories about a ship (ghost ship) that used to sail in different waters and times, the story of a boy who lives the same burdens and tragedies as Gil.

Gil lost his mother at such a young age, it was something a young boy should never go through or even could imagine going through but life brought him here and now he is ready to grow and live.

Two similar stories happen at different times and ages, two boys at the same age suffering from the loss of their mother and living the horrors of life.

This was a heartbreaking story it really made me feel all the emotions that I ever had, making it even harder to write this review because I really don't know how to say this was a great book but at the same time, it was heartbreaking.

I really enjoyed it so much.

Thank you, NetGalley and Atria Books, for the advanced copy of The Night Ship in exchange for my honest review.

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What an incredible journey through time. I love how the past is never forgotten, only something to be discovered years later by a person meant to discover it. Wonderful. Worth all the praise it has been given.

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This is not a novel I will soon forget. It was heartbreaking but captured me entirely. I loved the characters.
Many thanks to Atria and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Really enjoyed Jess Kidd's second novel, The Night Ship. A beautiful historical novel following 2 different timelines from a child's perspective.

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This was a fascinating pair of tales and very in keeping with the darkly whimsical style I expect from Jess Kidd. This books follows two nine year old children, Mayken and Gil. Mayken is on a ship in 1629 sailing around the world to move to Australia, Gil is learning how to adapt to life with his grandfather on a somewhat remote fishing island.

Kidd writes from the perspectives of these two children masterfully, the perspective enables her to insert the magical elements in a seamless and haunting way.

Beware, there is an act of senseless cruelty to an animal, and also a lot of cruelty to various human characters as well!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for this honest review!!

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I read this because I liked Things in Jars (sort of). I thought this felt like a second book. It was very wordy and oftentimes slow. I finished and it and may give this author a third try on their next book, but it depends on the subject matter.

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The true story based on the sinking of a Dutch ship. The story has two time lines, and travels between them quite effortlessly. However, The story from the 1600's was more compelling, Enjoyable read

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This is a work of fiction based on a true story. It had duel timelines and seems to transition between the two smoothly. 1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, and the more modern line has to do with a young orphan sent to live with his grandfather 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…
The legend of a ghost haunting a reef by the island is explored. And the connection is about young Mayken. I enjoyed the story, the insight of the islanders and the scientific community on the island was so dynamic. I’ve read this author’s previous works and liked her style.

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The Night Ship is a heavy read, with some truly awful scenes and gore. It was interesting historical read, but the darker side of humanity was a challenge throughout the story. Its many characters were tough to keep track too.

Not a favorite in the genre I love to read.

Thank you Atria Books for the complimentary copy of this novel.

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I'm always a bit hesitant to read stories told from a child's perspective, but not even the innocence of young eyes can hide the sinister nature of this story. This story is imbued with darkness from page one, like a mist hiding sharp corners and gloomy pathways.

But what makes this novel really shine is how Mayken and Gil's stories weave together. Kidd plays with narrative structure to enhance their connection, allowing them to slowly circle each other as the novel reaches its lethal crescendo. A propulsive, dramatic, heartrending story, but also so full of love that even in its darkest moments, there is a tender light guiding the way. Kidd explores loyalty, betrayal, and power in the face of disaster, wondering how we might choose to live when faced with impossible circumstances.

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Amazingly written novel that shared a story from a tragic piece of history. I had never heard of this shipwreck prior to reading. I love being able to learn about history through historical fiction.

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Jess Kid's writing is jarring and at times, harsh. Not in a sense of her wording but how they formulate to create a story. Her style works perfectly in The Night Ship as it tells the story of orphan Mayken, sailing for a new home, and the story of Gil, the boy who lived hundreds of years later. The way their story twists and weaves will leave you stunned.

Loved it. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria for an e-ARC.

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This book didn't grab my attention the way that I have hoped. I heard a lot of good things so it's probably just me, but it ended up in the DNF pile.

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"“Come.” John Pinten turns and puts his palm against the hull. “Do as I do.”
Mayken crawls forward and puts her palm next to his, flat against the planks. She sees how much smaller and cleaner her hand is. Too clean for a cabin boy. But John Pinten doesn’t seem to notice.
“She’s all that lies between us and the deep dark fathoms of the sea.” John Pinten’s voice grows quiet, grave. “Can you feel the ocean pulling at the nail heads, pressing against the planks, prizing the caulking? The water wants in.”'
"Old superstitions are rife now. The sailors lead the way. Words must be chanted over knots. Messmates must be served in a particular order. A change of wind direction must be greeted. Portents are looked for and translated. The cut of the wake noted. The shape of clouds debated...A lamp taken down into the hold will now burn green. Monstrous births plague the onboard animals. Their issue is hastily thrown overboard to prevent alarm. Eyeless lambs. Mouthless piglets. A litter of rabbits joined together, a mass of heads and limbs. The gardener harvests fork-tailed carrots from his boxed plot outside the hen coop.
“It’s the way of long journeys,” says Creesje. “They alter what people think and see.”"

1628 - Mayken van der Heuvel heads out on a long, exciting, but very dangerous adventure. She is setting sail on the grandest ship of the era, the Batavia, to a place by the same name, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Well, in 1628, anyway. Today, we know it as Jakarta, Indonesia. Her journey is not being undertaken by choice, though. Mayken’s mother died giving birth to a child not her husband’s. The girl is being sent to her father, accompanied by a nursemaid, the kindly, but very superstitious, Imke. Mayken is nine years old.

"There are many layers to this child: undergarments, middle garments, and top garments. Mayken is made of pale skin and small white teeth and fine fair hair and linen and lace and wool and leather. There are treasures sewn into the seams of her clothing, small and valuable, like her.
Mayken has a father she’s never met. Her father is a merchant who lives in a distant land where the midday sun is fierce enough to melt a Dutch child."

We follow Mayken’s adventures on this months-long journey across the world. But we know from the beginning that the ship will not complete its trip.

1989 - A nine-year-old boy has just endured a journey of his own.

"Gil is made of pale skin and red hair and thrifted clothes. His shoes, worn down on the outsides, lend an awkward camber to his walk. Old ladies like him, they think he’s old-fashioned. Truck drivers like him because he takes an interest in their rigs. Everyone else finds him weird."

He never knew his father, and Mom kept them on the move all of his brief life, until her death. Gil has been sent to live with his crusty fisherman grandfather, Joss. To the place off the west coast of Australia where the off-course Batavia met its inglorious end. Researchers have been retrieving bits of the ship and its contents. The island is said to be haunted by the spirit of a young girl, Little May.

Kidd learned about the Batavia while casting about for a subject for her next novel. I will leave you to explore the real-life story here in Wikipedia and in the Sea Museum site.

Mayken and Gil’s stories are told in alternating chapters. The duration of their experiences, however, is not the same. Mayken’s time on the Batavia is considerably longer than Gil’s, on what is now Beacon Island. Kidd handles this disparity well, so that difference is not obvious.

Mayken is a particularly curious and adventurous little girl, exploring and experiencing the ship with a range of partners, despite her caretakers preferring for her to be a demure, proper young lady. She has a talent for gaining trust and affection from those around her, both children and adults. It comes in handy. Being a child, she carries some odd notions with her, and is susceptible to things that challenge credulity. She is convinced that there is a mythical beast in the deep hold of the ship. (The eel creature was an ancient monster and foe of all humankind. Its name was Bullebak.) Is the evidence she spies of its existence sharp perception or childish imagination? Being the child of a wealthy household, she gains a lot more latitude from those in charge than a street urchin might, which allows her to get away with slipping away from the “Above World” of the deck and passengers to the “Below World” where the crew lives and works.

Gil is a lonely boy, who has seen little stability in his life, and more than his share of horror. Grandpa Joss is less than welcoming, (Gil’s mother had not exactly been a model daughter.) wants him to become a fisherman like him, an occupation to which Gil is ill-suited and strongly opposed. He finds a friend or two. Silvia, the young wife of an older fisherman (and hated rival to his grandfather) takes him under her wing. Dutch, an older deckhand, takes an interest in him as well. In addition, Gil acquires a companion of a different sort, Enkidu, a tortoise named for a bff from ancient literature.

There are challenges to survival for both Mayken and Gil, not just their initial de-parenting trauma and grief. In fact there is enough mirroring of their experiences for a carnival fun house. Both are, effectively, orphaned only children, with dead mothers and absent fathers, sent to live with relations after the death of their mothers. Both explore strange new places, with the assistance of those more familiar. Both have a belief in the reality of supposedly mythical beings, finding it easier to seek explanations for the world in cultural fantasies than in the awfulness of the humans around them. (The shadow-monster darkens and becomes solid. It is terrible. Slime slicks and drips over ancient barnacled scales. Eyes, luminous and bulging. Gills rattling venomously. A great, festering eel-king.) It is called a Bunyip.

Both are outsiders, in peril from people in their community. There is plenty more. But both come into possession of a stone with a hole in it, that is supposed to have special properties, a witch-stone, or hag-stone. The very same one. It is a link across three hundred sixty years, connecting their parallel experiences. As children, neither has control over much of anything, so they are both at the mercy of the adults around them, not all of whom are benign. With limited immediate familial resources, they are trying to create a kind of family for themselves.

One of the wonderful things about this novel is the view we get of a lengthy ocean voyage in the 17th century.

"The physical research helped. “Bumping my head about 400 times as I walked around the ‘Batavia’ replica, it really helped to get a physical sense of the life. The same with the island, walking around and seeing the barrenness and feeling the elements.” - from The Bookseller interview

The demise of the ship is terrifying, but not so much as the demise of civilization that follows for the survivors. Existential threats abound in 1989 as well, for Gil and others.

There are many compelling secondary characters. Several on the ship stand out, a soldier, John Pinten, the ship’s doctor, Aris Jansz, Holdfast, a denizen of the rigging, who snatches Mayken up. Imke the nursemaid is a fun addition, and Creesje, who looks to help Mayken going forward, is a warm, nurturing presence. Those surrounding Gil are likewise interesting. Gil’s colorful grandfather, Joss, goes through some changes. Dutch is a warm force, as is a researcher, on the island looking into the wreck.

While Mayken and Gil are entirely fictional, Kidd has populated her story with many of the actual people who were on the Batavia. The presence of those historical personages gives the events that take place in the novel even greater heft. The kids are very nicely drawn, and will engage your interest and sympathy.

Tension ratchets up for both Mayken and Gil. While we know the fate of the Batavia, we do not know the fate of all those she carried.

Unlike in her previous book, Things in Jars, which dealt very considerably with things fantastical, the unreality of the creatures May and Gil perceive is much more subtle. The creatures both claim to be real may or may not be. But both creatures serve admirably as metaphors for the awfulness of humanity.

While this may not be the best possible choice for reading on a ship-based vacation, it is a moving and fascinating read for landlubbers. Kidd writes with the touch of the poet, adorning her compelling, moving story with sparkling descriptive finery, while offering us a child’s-eye view of the most remarkable ship of its time, and telling a tale of doom. Both Gil’s and Mayken’s stories are strong enough masts to have sailed alone, but together they make a weatherly craft and catch a strong wind, easily speeding past potential story-telling shoals.

"“How do you describe dread, Gil? That’s what the bunyip is: an attempt to give fear a shape.”
Gil thinks on this.
“Everyone’s fear looks different,” Birgit continues. “So everyone’s creature looks different. But they all eat crayfish, women, and children. That seems to be universal.”
“They’re just warnings for kids. Not to play near water or talk to strangers.”"

Review posted – December 16, 2022

Publication date – October 18, 2022

I received an ARE of The Night Ship from Atria in return for a fair review, and a small, ancient piece of (maybe) bone, recently dug up in our back yard. Thanks, folks.

For the full review, with links and images, please head on over to my site:

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In 1628, Mayken, the child of a wealthy Dutch merchant, sets sail on the Batavia to join her father in the Spice Islands after the death of her mother. She is accompanied by her nursemaid, Imke, but Imke being ill from the beginning of the voyage, Mayken soon has the run of the upper ship. Dressed in raggedy boys’ breeches, she also sometimes explores the depths of the ship.

In 1989, young Gil has gone to live on an island in the Indian Ocean with his fisherman grandfather after his mother’s death. Gil’s mother and her father Joss had been estranged, and Joss doesn’t seem happy to have him. The island is inhabited by fishermen who only live there during the fishing season and by archaeologists exploring the site of the sinking of the Batavia. There are rumors that the island is haunted by a girl who died after the shipwreck.

This novel is utterly fascinating. Kidd does a great job with her characters, especially the enchanting Mayken. The story of the Batavia, an actual shipwreck, is gut-wrenching, but Kidd makes her more modern story almost as interesting. This book is great.

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I honestly went into this book blind. I didn’t read the description or any reviews but I think it made it that much better. I was utterly surprised at every turn and truly loved the storyline. Jess Kidd is a phenomenal author and I will definitely be reading more. Can’t give this one enough praises.

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Jess Kidd can write. I read and reviewed her debut novel, Himself, which I loved so much that I bought a copy to give as a gift; I called it “Sly as hell and fall-down-laughing funny.” I have read and reviewed her others as well: Mr. Flood’s Last Resort (The Hoarder in Britain,) and Things in Jars. Her most recent novel, The Night Ship, is technically as good or better than any before, but I love it less, largely because of the expectations I brought to it, based on the other three before it. I’ll explain that momentarily.

My thanks go to Net Galley and Atria Books for the review copy. This book is for sale now.

The Night Ship is based on a true story, the sinking of the famous ship, the Batavia, in 1629. Our protagonist is Mayken, a child whose mother has died; she is being sent to her father in the company of her elderly nurse maid. When the ship goes down, she is marooned on an island near Australia.

Over three hundred years later in 1989, a boy named Gil has also lost his mother, and is sent to live on the same island with his cantankerous grandfather. There isn’t much to do there, and he finds his imagination is captured by the tales of a shipwreck that occurred here hundreds of years ago.

The way that Kidd braids the stories of these two children into one well crafted novel is admirable. They are separate, and yet together, and the nearer we get to the conclusion, the more commonalities reveal themselves. Clearly, Kidd is at the height of her craft—so far, at least. Goodness knows what else she’s got up her sleeve. Her eccentricity and her appreciation of working class struggle sets her in a class beyond most authors.

And yet. When I read her debut novel, she captured my whole heart. I couldn’t stop talking about it, the way her adroit word-smithery combined with a hilarious tale of sheer, spun magic. It remains a favorite of mine some five years and hundreds of novels later. And when the next, Mr. Flood, came out it wasn’t quite as magical, yet really, nothing else could be, and it was still vastly superior to what anyone else was writing, and I adored it. And the next one after it, while not as humorous, was wonderfully dark, and the ending made me smile. The author’s message was rock solid.

Every single one of her previous novels had an uplifting quality, and when I read the last page, I was smiling. And so I began to feel that I could count on Kidd to raise my spirits. In fact, I rationed this story out to myself, and when, given my penchant for reading multiple books at a time, I found myself buried in dark works—in one, I was freezing and bloody in the Ardennes Forest during World War II; in another, the devil had possessed a psychiatrist in a high security asylum; add into the mix a bio of a falsely accused prisoner in the U.S. that lost his entire youth before he was exonerated, and another young man being ‘re-educated’ in a North Korean prison camp; I figured I needed a good dose of Jess Kidd right now. Now. This instant!

And so I got her book, and then the ship went down.

So, I didn’t get what I wanted from this novel, but it had more to do with my own expectations than with any defect in the quality of her writing. Still, I cannot help feeling a trifle disappointed.

If you’re ready to go dark, this is your book. If you just love good writing, this is your book, too. But if you need a feel-good book to lighten your heart, get her debut novel.

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I really loved Things in Jars, so I was very excited to read The Night Ship, but unfortunately I had to stop reading it. I don't know if I just wasn't in the right headspace, or if I was truly bored, or if I loved her first book so much that this one didn't meet my expectations....either way, I was a bit sad with this one.

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Gorgeous work of historical fiction. However upon reflection. This was not the book for me. The two story lines had me struggling to form a connection. Maybe will give this a try in the future. I would still recommend as the prose is gorgeousl.

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