Book Reviews

Book Review: The Night Ship

By Jess Kidd

Publication Date:  October 4, 2022

397 Pages

This novel follows two nine-year olds born hundreds of years apart, but bound together by tragedy.

In 1629, Maynken boards the Batavia on its maiden voyage to the Dutch East Indies.  Alone except for her nursemaid, she’s on her way to live with her father, a man she doesn’t know.  While her nursemaid suffers an illness in their cabin, Maynken is left alone to explore the ship, befriending both fellow passengers and crew, and hunting a monster in the hold that she believes is responsible for her nursemaid’s illness.  But when disaster strikes, the real monsters are all too human.

In 1989, after his mother’s death, Gil is sent to live with his grandfather on a tiny island off the coast of Western Australia.  In part because of his upbringing, Gil is a loner and uncomfortable around other people.  He has no desire to become a fisherman and due to a long-standing feud between his grandfather and many of the other men on the island, Gil is not welcome in most homes.  He spends most of his time with the scientists who live on the island, researching the wreck of the Batavia. So many unlikely stories surround the wreck; could it be true that the ghost of a little girl still haunts the island?

“The Night Ship” interpreted by Wombo Dream

I’m going to start out with what didn’t quite work for me in this novel, because there wasn’t much.  The two stories flip back and forth, growing in tension and driving the main characters toward their fate.  However, since the story about what happened to the Batavia and her passengers and crew was revealed fairly early on in the “current” timeline, it robbed most of the tension from the historic timeline.  It’s kind of like reading about the Titanic, you already know what happens so the ending is hardly a surprise.  

However, I really, really liked everything else about this book.  The historical details were rich and not forced (as in when an author drops in a reference for the time period just because they can, or a character names every street in a city to convince you the author has been there and done their research).  The characters were superbly drawn and what really struck me was how much more was not said rather than what was actually spoken or revealed.  Honestly, I’ve never seen an author use silence so well.  

One really well crafted aspect was the at-times perfect parallel between the two children.  I nearly expected the timelines to intersect, but it wasn’t that kind of story.  This didn’t happen all the time but some chapters ended and the next began with the children each doing nearly the exact same thing, or having the same thought, etc.  I wasn’t sure if I liked it the first time, but then it grew on me and I found myself looking for it.

To summarize, a truly enjoyable read.  I will be looking for more by the author.

4.25 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐+

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing the ARC.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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