To Battersea Park By Philip Hensher – A Review

Publisher: 4th Estate

Publication date: 30th March 2023

Split into four parts and set at the point that the uk was in the height of covid lockdown rules To Battersea Park by Philip Hensher opens with one man, a published author, observing the streets and world around him in very different ways than before lockdown occurred.

Living with his partner they both treat the endless days of nothing as a chance to experience the comfort of the day panning out with small punctuations of previously meaningless tasks that now delineate the day, making the morning coffee, baking the morning bread, reading a novel between breakfast and lunch, observing the neighbours and their behaviour, and going for their allotted 1 hour exercise outside of the house. However the author seems to have lost his inspiration and impetus to write.

All the free time means the men can observe their neighbours in close quarters where before they would have been busy with their own lives. They chat with Gio and Stuart nextdoor, observe their illegal family gatherings. They watch a man across the street they dub The Stalinist who pastes pictures of past labour prime ministers in his window and then of course theres the jogger..

The writer muses on how different the streets are, quiet and subdued, punctuated only with other neighbours taking their daily walks or joggers running past, too close for comfort for the writer. He has time to notice the types of trees in their area, previously unnoticed trees and the imported Pomelo trees of a neighbouring woman.

In part two the neighbourhood opens out to the reader and where previously we were inside the writers head we now split off to meet various other characters that are linked to the writer in some way or another. We meet his parents, his mother with dementia and his father her carer. We meet a woman known as The Builders Wife, a woman who is being pushed closer to the edge by working from home, zoom meetings, looking after her adult stepchildren and the fact that her husband The Builder is currently furloughed and hanging around the house all the time.

In part three we’ve moved forward in time to a point where lockdown has developed into something we’ve not seen before. Shops are closed, supermarkets looted, electricity has failed, water is in scant supply, the postal service has ceased to exist, social media and government updates are a thing of the past. Against a backdrop of sinister violence two men take a walk……

The book ends with the writer contracting the virus along with his partner and we meet again the jogger and his family….

It’s not for everyone to read books surrounding the pandemic. I didn’t think it would be for me entirely but it prompted me to remember certain points of that time. I gelled with certain parts more than others but overall I enjoyed Hensher’s writing style. I really liked the end section which is something of a fever dream with a touch of the dystopian. I have read that parts of this book are auto-fiction which gives it more depth overall for me. If pandemic retrospectives are not your bag then steer clear, otherwise give it a whirl!

Thank you to 4th Estate for my review copy

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookishchat x

Other Women by Emma Flint – A Review

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 23rd February 2023

Emma Flint’s debut novel Little Deaths is one of my favourite books of all time and has pride of place on my Forever Shelf. When I heard that Emma had a new novel out I had very high hopes. Let me tell you that I was not disappointed.

Other Women is set in London in the years after WW1. A time when many men returned from the war disfigured, disabled or mentally scarred. Many did not return at all leaving behind grieving mothers, widows and sisters.

Bea is 37, recently moved to London from the north and is working as a bookkeeper and typist for a stationary company. She lives in a women’s club in Bloomsbury with other single, independent women. But Bea is feeling overlooked. Her parents are dead, her brother too and she only really has her sister Jane who she sees rarely. She is not a widow or a grieving mother, so who is she? She is no longer young enough in society’s eyes to be considered pretty and vibrant like the bright young things she sees around her, so she is struggling to find her place.

When Tom Ryan is hired as a salesman for the company she works at, he eschews the young flirty office girls attentions in favour of the more mature Bea. Bea is entranced by him and he brings colour to her life. The only issue is he’s married.

We then meet Katie, wife of Tom and mother of his child, Judith. Katie met and married Tom very young and they have settled into a stable marriage that is perhaps a little dull. Katie is aware that Tom has his ladies on the side but turns a blind eye as he always comes back to her and their daughter.

When an act of violence in a coastal cottage means the two women’s lives converge, there is trauma and pain that could never have been predicted.

Emma Flint is an incredible writer who for me perfectly depicts female characters who you will never forget. They are flawed and damaged with a vulnerability but also an innate strength and stoicism. She also writes crime in a domestic setting perfectly too and in Other Women writes courtroom scenes that focus not only on the facts but how the central character is feeling. The emotion, the trauma, the horror of it all. It also highlights the shocking iniquities in the way men were portrayed in the press at the time versus women and how courtroom news was reported on.

Emma writes sentences that are so expertly crafted that I found myself feverishly underlining and going back to re-read them. Descriptive and evocative, sublime!

The backdrop of post-war London and society at the time was expertly researched and conveyed and I really felt swept up in the times.

The story was based on a true event and the afterword by the author was fascinating!

This is a book I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Thank you to Picador for my proof copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookishchat x

Weyward By Emilia Hart – A Review

Publisher: The Borough Press

Publication Date: 2nd February 2023

Well I do love a multiple timeline narrative in a book don’t I? So I had high hopes for Weyward by Emilia Hart.

Weyward tells the interconnecting stories of three women all living in different centuries. The book opens in 2019 with Kate Ayers fleeing from her physically and mentally abusive relationship with Simon, to Weyward cottage, a ramshackle abode with its wild gardens left to her by her great aunt in her will. Kate is looking for refuge and a place to gather herself but finds that her recently acquired property brings with it some questions she must figure out the answers to.

In the 1600’s Altha Weyward finds herself on trial for the murder of a local farmer. Altha and her mother were local healers often feared and revered for their potential links with witchcraft. After Altha’s mother dies she makes a promise to keep her gifts hidden but can she manage to keep her promise….

In 1947 we meet Violet, a teenage girl living with her father and brother Graham their mother having died supposedly in childbirth with Graham. Violet is a wilful girl who has a curious mind and a very strong connection with nature, insects and animals. But her curiosity is often curtailed by her father particularly when this inquisitiveness extends to asking questions about her dead mother, a woman she only has a necklace to remember her by.

This is an expertly crafted story about how the three women are intrinsically connected through the centuries. Each of them fighting their own battles against the patriarchy in their own way. These women are ‘other’ whether they realise it or not, Altha is fully aware she is different from the rest of the people in the village, young Violet feels different but is quashed by her overbearing father and Kate has powers she hasn’t yet tapped into. But with the help of Weyward cottage and the centuries old secrets buried there she can find a way to tap into her strength for herself and the women who have gone before her under the Weyward name.

This is a multilayered tale which is visceral and compelling. With short punchy chapters you flit between the narratives of the three very memorable women. I say memorable because sometimes in books with multiple timeline narratives you as a reader can feel more invested in one characters timeline than the others. This is very much not the case with Weyward.

It has elements of magical realism that really build towards the end which I found myself getting so caught up in! I loved it.

I am extremely excited to see what Emilia brings us next!

Thank you to The Borough Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x Bookishchat

The Family String By Denise Picton – A Review

Publisher: Ultimo Press

Publication Date: 10th November 2022

This is my first book from Ultimo Press who publish Australian fiction. It certainly won’t be my last!

Set in 1960’s Adelaide we focus on one Christaldelphian family through the eyes of 12 year old Dorcas. Dorcas is the second eldest child but the oldest living at home. Her older brother David has been sent away to do the lords work after an incident the family don’t talk about.

Dorcas, together with her two younger siblings Ruthy and Caleb like to chart their mother’s moods daily. Quite often they have a long run of ‘cross’ with the occasional run of ‘head’ to denote their mother taking to bed with one of her headaches. Occasionally she’ll have a ‘Jesus’ day where she gently hums hymns to herself as she goes about her day. Caleb also likes to chart the positions of the family ‘favourites’ in relation to their mother. This is done with coloured beads on a string, hence ‘the family string’. Unfortunately Dorcas’s bead is last on the string, furthest away from her mothers bead. This doesn’t change. Dorcas and everyone else in the family know that she is the least favourite child.

Their religion means the family can’t be ‘worldly’. They must concentrate their efforts on education and religion and nothing much else beyond that. However Caleb is desperate to play football and Ruthy is a budding writer and Dorcas has dreams of becoming a vet.

Dorcas tries her best to be the daughter she thinks her mother wants but it doesn’t quite work out that way. The family experience a tragedy which threatens to tear them apart for good but can Dorcas make her way back into the family unit…

If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know I sometimes struggle with child narrators and quite often say that a child character has to have a bit of something special about them to keep my attention. Well let me tell you that Dorcas is something special. She is tenacious and determined but things don’t always quite work out the way she wants them to. I found myself constantly rooting for her! There are dark events that happen to Dorcas and around Dorcas and she observes these things through such naive eyes that I wanted to just give her a huge hug! She’s funny and sharp and a little bit wilful and ‘naughty’ which I loved. She has heart and spirit and is such a memorable indomitable character. I loved her!

I was also fascinated by the character of Dorcas’ mother. We are viewing her life a step removed through the naive and immature eyes of a child but as adult readers we are all too aware that this woman is clearly suffering from depression and has her own demons to battle. Dorcas and her siblings know that something isn’t right with their mother but they’re far too young to figure out what. I found this heartbreaking and as much as their mother isn’t always likeable I felt I could understand her actions somewhat.

Denise Picton’s writing is relatable and humorous but she also weaves in these threads of emotion that wind themselves around your heart and take root. This is a story of family ties, depression, love, faith and determination.

Dorcas is an unforgettable character who will stay with me for a long time to come.

A brilliant debut!

Thank you Laura Creyke and Ultimo Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

Where I End By Sophie White – A Review

Publisher: Tramp Press

Publication Date: 13th October 2022

I am a huge fan of Sophie White. I loved her book Corpsing and I listen to her podcast The Creep Dive every week. So when I was asked if I’d like a proof of her new novel Where I End I jumped at the chance!

This book had me utterly gripped at the same time as being utterly uncomfortable and unsettled!

Where I End is told from the perspective of 20 year old Aoileann, a girl living on a remote island in Ireland. She lives in a small cottage with her grandmother and her mother who she calls ‘the bed-thing’. This is due to the fact that her mother has been bed bound for as long as Aoileann can remember. She is an inert, unresponsive being who Aoileann calls ‘it’ as she helps her grandmother to winch and shunt her mother around the cottage, taking care of her basic needs, washing and feeding and changing her nappies.

Aoileann’s father only visits them once a month to sit with ‘the bed-thing’ but leaves Aoileann and her grandmother alone the rest of the time taking care of her needs. Aoileann and her grandmother take great pains to keep her hidden from the rest of the islanders who already treat Aoileann as a cursed being, spitting to protect themselves and avoiding her at all costs.

Aoileann is not sure what turned her mother into this withered and rotting specimen, unsure of what event happened to make her this way and why nobody talks about it. But she has also started to come across letters and symbols carved into the wooden floor in her mothers room. Scratched into the timber by her mothers exposed finger bone on her rotting hand. What can the letters mean and how come they find her immobile mother in places she shouldn’t be able to get to in the dead of night?…..

When an artist, Rachel, arrives on the island with her new born baby, Aoileann takes an obsessive interest in her and finds a focus for the unfulfilled love of a mother….

This is such a dark and hugely unsettling book which you all know I love! It has so many elements that are like catnip to me. There’s body horror, isolated island life, superstitions, cruelty, motherhood and long buried family secrets.

The way that Aoileann and her grandmother treat her mother is cold and brusque with no hint of tenderness or love whatsoever which makes for uncomfortable reading at times. As a reader you are unaware for a long time why this woman has ended up how she has and it almost feels unfathomable that she should be treated this way, however you also bear witness to the terrible life of drudgery and toil that Aoileann has been saddled with in being expected to care for her mother.

Aoileann is treated terribly by the islanders and lives a closeted life trying to shrink away from their judgmental eyes. Her only sanctuary is swimming in the sea. A sea that has claimed many islanders lives if rumours are to be believed. It is during a swim that she meets Rachel and from here a tentative friendship is formed. But what for Rachel appears to be a comforting relationship as she struggles with the exhaustion of new motherhood is something altogether darker and more obsessive for Aoileann.

I don’t really want to say anymore about the plot as I think this is a book you need to discover for yourself. Sophie’s writing is beautiful despite the gut churning content. Her depictions of the island and the cottage really place you firmly there. I was in no doubt as to the landscape and the atmosphere.

It also has one of the best first pages I have read and it just got better and better!

I loved it!

Thank you so much to Helen Richardson and Tramp Press for my proof copy.

See you soon.

Amanda xx @bookishchat

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth – A Review

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Publication Date: October 6th 2022

I was initially drawn to this book by the amazing cover and the bonkers tagline. But when I read the blurb I got the book tingles for sure! And my bookish spidey-senses were not wrong with this one!

When it arrived in May I knew it wasn’t due to be published until October but I took a peek at the first page and was immediately hooked. In a few short paragraphs I smiled wryly to myself at the dark and dry humour. That was enough for me to think oh blow it I’ll read it now! And read it I did, in 24 hours.

Abby has grown up with no father and a selfish mother who has more regard for the many many men who are in and out of her life. Abby pays the price of being second best in her mother’s eyes.

As an adult Abby meets Ralph, her knight in shining armour who comes as a package with his mother, Laura. Abby sees Laura as her second chance to have a loving caring mother figure in her life but is disappointed when Laura turns out to be over protective of Ralph and dismissive of Abby, making passive aggressive comments to Abby under Ralph’s radar.

The book opens at the point that Laura, having suffered from depression for years, takes her own life in the basement of her house, a house that Abby and Ralph had recently moved into to help Laura out.

After the passing of his mother, Ralph descends into a deep depression and tells Abby that his mother is back and living in the basement. Abby is desperate to keep a hold of her husband and drag him back into their lives in the here and now. A life of their own without the constraints of caring for Laura and the possibility of having a much wanted child of their own.

As Ralph falls apart so to by degrees does Abby and she ultimately makes terrible decisions in her quest for a happy family life.

I knew going in that this book was going to be bonkers. And it was, don’t get me wrong! However, it was much deeper and layered than I expected. The story is told from the first person perspective of Abby so we as readers are inside her head at all times. She has a dark sense of humour that we witness not only through her internal monologue but her interactions with Ralph and the women she works with. I really loved the little in-jokes she has with Ralph and their lovely genuine relationship.

Throughout the whole book there is of course the theme of motherhood. We have Abby’s own terrible neglected childhood with a mother who didn’t see her as a priority in her life and who put men before her. We then have Laura’s relationship with Ralph and the fact that she will not consider any woman to be good enough for him. We also have Abby’s desperation for a family of her own, so much so that she actually converses with her unborn child ‘Cal’ even though she isn’t even pregnant. We also then gave a separate thread of story relating to Abby’s employment at an old peoples residential care home. There’s a woman in there, Mrs Blundy, who Abby attaches herself to and calls her her ‘baby’ again another last desperate grab for a caring mother in her life. When this relationship is threatened it converges with her issues at home and that is when Abby’s decisions become unhinged.

Motherthing is a modern horror but wasn’t as horrific as I was expecting. There are some difficult parts to stomach (I’ll just say chicken a la king and leave it at that!) And it I bloody loved it!

It’s so funny and dark and odd but utterly gripping and propulsive. I love Ainslie Hogarths writing style and I know this book has been compared in some reviews to Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder and I can very much see why. There are also glints of C J Skuse in there if you’ve ever read the Sweet Pea series of books (but not as murderous!).

It’s a quirky book, it’s deliciously dark and it’s going right on my books of the year list!

Get involved!

Thank you to Kirsty Doole and Atlantic Books for my review copy.

Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates – A Review

Publisher: 4th Estate

Publication Date: 1st September 2022

Well Joyce Carol Oates is a bit of a legend isn’t she really? I’ve not read many of her books but even I know that.

When I heard that JCO had a new book out called Babysitter, focussing on a child abductor and serial killer I knew it would be brilliant. Little did I know that it would also crawl right under my skin! So much so that I had to stop reading and put it down a few times for a breather!

Set in the late seventies in Detroit the story focuses on two separate threads that begin to weave together. We meet Hannah Jarrett the wife of a very affluent and successful businessman, Wes Jarrett who is well known and respected in the upper class areas of Far Hills in Detroit. The couple have two young children Katya and Conor and a housekeeper and nanny Ismelda. Hannah spends her days doing philanthropic work and is cochair on many charity commitees. It is at one of the charity dinners she has organised that she has a chance meeting with Y.K. A mysterious man who merely briefly touches her wrist but makes a huge impression on Hannah. Despite not many other people in the room remembering him or even knowing exactly who he might be.

Hannah starts an affair with this enigmatic mysterious man and sneaks away whilst Wes is at the office and the children are at school to meet him in a hotel suite.

It is here that she finds herself waking up disheveled and with a patchy memory. Even though she knows something untoward is going on she still revels in the thrill of having a ‘lover’ to spice up her dull suburban life. And maybe this is what happens in affairs?…..

Whilst all this is going on we also have the serial killer thread of the story. A murderer dubbed ‘Babysitter’ has been abducting children of around ten years old and keeping them hidden for a few days. Torturing and sexually assaulting them before strangling them. He then bathes them and leaves them displayed naked with their arms and legs crossed with a pile of their freshly laundered and ironed clothes beside them.

Hannah is terrified that as punishment for her extra marital affair, her children will fall victim to Babysitter but she also takes comfort in the fact that so far the children who have been murdered have all been from neglectful families. Until the murders come a little too close to home.

As Hannah’s life begins to unravel she starts to wonder about how little she actually knows about her lover and she fights to keep her family together.

Hannah is not an immediately likeable character by any means. She spends a lot of time bemoaning her life and has many issues, particularly with her father who she calls Joker Daddy. She also dwells a lot on how as a white, affluent woman she is regarded by other people. Race plays a big part in the novel and is indicative of the time.

The serial killer aspect is not a huge focus if you’re only interested in this novel for that element. It’s a peripheral story that frames the disintegration of Hannah’s life.

This novel is very tense and made me feel uncomfortable at many points along the way! The descriptions of violent sexual assault and it’s aftermath are extremely graphic and make for difficult reading. There are also depictions of child sexual abuse within a paeodophile ring which are extremely uncomfortable, so please do bear this in mind if you’re considering reading.

Joyce Carol Oates writing is very distinctive and can be quite difficult to get into initially in my opinion, but once you’re there you are completely absorbed. Despite the feelings this book gave me I really did enjoy it. It crawled under my skin and took root in my brain. I felt like I needed a good hosing down after reading it!

I’ve also since bought more JCO novels to keep me topped up!

Thank you so much to Matt Clacher and 4th Estate for my review copy.

See you soon.

Amanda xx

The Family Retreat By Bev Thomas – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 25th August 2022

It was May when the proof of The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas dropped through my letterbox. I did that thing that I’m sure a lot of us do where you just have a sneak peek at chapter one just to see what it’s all about. I read chapter one……chapter two……chapter three and didn’t put it down for a couple of days. This is one of those books you want to skip work and ignore your family for!

Rob has decided that it will be a good idea for his family to get away for the summer and leave their home life and worries behind. Jess, his wife, is not so sure it’s a good idea to run away from their problems but as she’s currently on a sabbatical from her job as a GP in a busy London surgery she agrees to the break to spend some time with Rob and their two young children Sam and Ruby.

They soon settle into their relaxed holiday vibe in a lovely little cottage on the coast and even start to make friends. Helen and her husband James are living in a cottage nearby with their two children. Jess makes friends with Helen but the relationship is quite superficial at first with Jess sensing that Helen wants to keep her distance and keep things on a surface level. Jess admires Helen’s organised mothering skills and strict routines and watches on sometimes enviously. Helen’s husband, when he’s around is attentive and helpful and Jess admires their whole family dynamic.

As the women spend more and more time together with the kids, days on the beach, barbecues etc Helen begins to open up more about her life and some issues within it. But what secrets are both women keeping and will it bring them closer or crack families apart?…..

This is quite a tense read and there were times when my heart was hammering due to the dangerous and heart-in-mouth moments that occurred. I was swept along so skilfully in the narrative that I was fully immersed in the situations along with these characters.

The back drop of the coast line was such a good choice. The descriptions of the landmarks and a particular place known as the dancing ledge were very evocative. In fact the author Bev Thomas put an image of a similar place to the dancing ledge on her Twitter feed and it was exactly as I’d pictured it.

There are lots of layers to this story to build up and peel away. I love a story with secrets and facades to chip away at.

This book deals with some difficult issues such as mental illness and domestic abuse which is something to bear in mind.

I really enjoyed this book which I think would make an absolutely perfect summer read. I honestly couldn’t put it down.

I can’t wait for what Bev brings us next!

Thank you to Bev and Faber & Faber for my review and finished copies.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

Bad Fruit By Ella King – A Review

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 18th August 2022

I always enjoy a book about a difficult mother and the tag line of ‘Meet Mama. A good mother? Or a good liar….’ drew me to Bad Fruit by Ella King.

Set in Greenwich London over one hot summer, we meet 18 year old Lily, daughter of a Chinese mother and English pathologist father. Lily’s mother is an extremely difficult woman and then some! She’s volatile and selfish and explosive. She’s difficult and cruel and the family pretty much tiptoe around her, none more so than Lily.

Lily has older siblings, sister Julia and brother Jacob. Julia is the incendiary child who ignites the flames of fury in her mother whilst Jacob keeps his distance. Both have moved out leaving Lily behind to handle their mother. Lily has been moulded into a miniature version of her mother and Julia likes to call her Mamas girl, Mama’s doll. Lily is the least Chinese looking of the three siblings so their mother makes her dye her brown hair jet black,use makeup to change her skin colour and contacts to change her eye colour. She wears her mother’s favourite pink clothes and cooks her mother’s favourite meals, diligently completing lists of tasks her mother leaves for her whilst she’s at work.

Lily’s father is somewhat beleaguered and tries to avoid his wife’s raging tempers despite being the cause of them in a lot of cases. Lily is the only person who can pre-empt the rages and uses tried and tested methods of diffusing her mother’s anger by distracting her with cooking traditional meals from her childhood in China and encouraging her to talk about the memories she has of this time.

But Lily begins to have disturbing flashbacks which start small, smashed glass, milk between toes, a woman collapsing against a chair…… these flashbacks mean nothing to her and bring on debilitating panic attacks that she struggles to control.

But in investigating these flashbacks Lily starts to learn more and more about her mother, uncovering secrets and lies with potentially devastating consequences.

The opening of this novel is chaotic! In a great way. There’s a lot going on and you are aware that this family has some huge issues right from the off! My mind was whirring with what on earth could have made this family and particularly, this mother, so toxic and dysfunctional!

It is a very layered exploration of trauma and how this filters down through generations gaining levels of toxicity as it goes. It’s a difficult often tense read and there are some shocking and chaotic moments. I really felt for Lily and her situation as a young girl wanting to break free from her childhood home but also being left behind as the one who has to ‘handle mother’.

I read this book in one 24 hour period and couldn’t look away from the car crash realities of this dysfunctional family. Loved it!

Thank you to Susanna Peden and HarperCollins for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda xx

The Night Ship By Jess Kidd – A Review

Publisher: Canongate

Publication Date: 11th August 2022

You all know how much I adored Things In Jars by Jess Kidd. I wanged on about it endlessly! And rightly so!

I was both excited and nervous when I heard that Jess had a new book coming out in August this year, The Night Ship. Nervous because I wanted to love it so much. I even put off reading it for longer than I normally would for this very reason.

Fear not dear reader for Jess kidd has done it again! Written a spectacularly imaginative story that everyone must read.

The book has a dual timeline narrative which you know I love. We have little Mayken in 1628 who has just boarded a ship called the Batavia with her nursemaid Imke, headed to see a father she doesn’t know after losing her mother to the ‘bloody flux’.

The ship is grand and Mayken in her high social standing is afforded a cabin on the upper decks or the ‘upper world’ as it’s known. However, curious and bold Mayken yearns to know what is going on below deck in the ‘below-world’ and sets about discovering the comings and goings down in the cramped, dark and stuffy, rat infested lower decks.

Mayken’s much beloved nursemaid Imke has a touch of the foresight about her and passengers come to her for predictions and prophesies. But when Imke becomes gravely ill, Mayken has reason to believe that something more sinister is aboard the ship…..slithering around in the darkness.

In 1989 young Gil, having also just lost his mother in terrible circumstances is arriving on a remote island in Australia to stay with his fisherman grandfather, Joss. Joss is a quiet, surly and introspective man who has little time for his new charge. The other fishing families on the island are not keen on Joss to say the least but there is one particular family, The Zanetti’s, who have a deeply held grudge against Gil’s grandfather. Gil doesn’t want to be a fisherman and finds it hard to settle on the island but he’s drawn to stories of a Dutch ghost girl who wanders the island…..

The two timelines merge together in various ways and there are echoes of themes across the two. Power, cruelty and control. The individual characters of Mayken and Gil are written so beautifully and authentically that you can’t help but root for them both! Mayken is a strong and brave little girl and Gil is strong and brave too but in different ways and for different reasons. Both children have lost their mother and find themselves alone and trying desperately to find themselves but not quite fitting in.

The historical detail regarding the ship Batavia was immense. I was so immersed in life at sea and could imagine all the finer details. Jess is so good at crafting wonderfully immersive stories that just sweep you away to other places and times.

Jess is also a master at writing fully formed characters bursting with personality even if they are a somewhat peripheral character. There are quite a few different characters in this story, both aboard the ship and on the island but they are all very distinct. There is a fearsome man called Stonecutter onboard the Batavia who only appears briefly but wreaks havoc and spreads fear. Mayken and Gil both make some really gorgeous connections with others. Mayken with a British soldier and various crew members and Gil with a couple of islanders Sylvia and Dutch but mostly with a tortoise pal called Enkidu who you’ll never forget!

I’m always left a bit stunned at the end of Jess’s books wishing I could go back and read it again immediately just to be back in that world and The Night Ship is no exception. It goes without saying that the book led me on a googling mission as it’s based on the real life story of the Batavia. Absolutely fascinating!

Another totally magical tale with storytelling at its heart. I loved it!

Thank you Jess for my proof copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx