Review: The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

Based on a true story, The Night Ship is an epic historical novel that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.

1629: 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…?

With her trademark “thrilling, mysterious, twisted, but more than anything, beautifully written” (Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Jess Kidd weaves “a true work of magic” (V.E. Schwab, author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue) about friendship, sacrifice, brutality, and forgiveness.



My Thoughts:

Jess Kidd’s The Night Ship is a fantastical historical fiction based on the true ship wreck of the Batavia.  It is filled with Australian and Dutch folklore.  The mysticism intrigues Mayken, the nine-year old narrator who is aboard the Batavia in 1629.  Gil, the nine-year old narrator in 1989, isn’t much intrigued by ghosts, mystic monsters, and folklore, but he is terrified of his monstrous neighbors.

I anticipated that their stories of love, loss and tragedy would intersect on the Abrohlos Islands off the coast of Western Australia where Mayken was shipwrecked and where Gil now lives, but they don’t and that was a big “miss” for me as a reader.  It is easy to sympathize with the two young characters, but I found it difficult to feel truly engaged in those characters.  Both are overly curious, and their curiosity leads to all kinds of trouble.  Whether they were antagonists or protagonists, the broad cast of secondary characters are colorful and interesting.

I enjoyed the folklore and Ms. Kidd’s signature magical realism that she effortlessly and creatively builds into her stories. I appreciated the story layout, the character-driven plot, and the wonderful descriptiveness of Ms. Kidds’ storytelling.  I truly love that Ms. Kidd has given me a reason to dig deep into the stacks of my local library for more information about the wreck of the Batavia.

About the Author: Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from county Mayo and has been praised for her unique fictional voice. Her debut, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016. She won the Costa Short Story Award the same year. Her second novel, The Hoarder, published as Mr. Flood’s Last Resort in the U.S. and Canada was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club Picks. Her latest book, the Victorian detective tale Things in Jars, has been released to critical acclaim. Jess’s work has been described as ‘Gabriel García Márquez meets The Pogues.’

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