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

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