Kidd has based her latest novel on the historical sinking of the BATAVIA off the west coast of Australia in 1629.
There are two narrative arcs both involving young protagonists, a young girl and boy. They have many similarities. Both are nine years of age; both have lost their mother, both believe they have a monster haunting them and both may meet their end in the same geographical location though centuries apart.
In 1629 Mayken is sailing on the maiden voyage of the Batavia to meet a father she has never met. Mayken, a bit of a tomboy, cannot sit idly by on such a long voyage and starts to explore the ship venturing into areas she has been forbidden to go. Mayken meets numerous characters, some helpful, some not, and some downright dangerous. However, none are as dangerous as the monster that she believes is living on the bottom deck of the ship.
In 1989 Gil is living on the islands where the Batavia sunk. He has lost his mother and lives in the care of his reclusive grandfather. Everybody on the Island avoids his grandfather for reasons Kidd does not at first share with the reader. His grandfather, growing older, hopes that Gil will take over his fishing job. Gil has other plans and plots to escape the islands. There are a group of scientists working on the wreck of the Batavia and it’s interesting when they find detritus from Mayken’s story arc, centuries ago.
The narrative alternates between Mayken and Gil with chapters switching between the two. This structure works particularly well, especially towards the ending as both characters are facing life threatening dilemmas. Kidd shortens the chapters, which gives the impression of speed and ratchets up the tension, as both characters approach a climactic ending.
The cast of characters include many "real life" identities, and it is obvious that Kidd has done here research uncovering them.
With past books, Kidd has delivered stories dripping with magical realism. The sinking of the Batavia is such an interesting story, but with this fourth book, emphasis is placed on the two protagonists’ stories, and they drive the narrative. Although the element of magical realism is reduced, the book is still full of Kidd’s beautiful descriptive prose. With the horrible, cramped, filthy conditions of a seventeenth century Dutch ship, Kidd has a wonderful canvas to work with.
With "THE NIGHT SHIP" Kidd has weaved together two of my favourite genres and the result is another stellar book.
If the story of the Batavia interests you, I thoroughly recommend “BATAVIA” by Peter Fitzsimons. Meticulously researched and an immensely enjoyable read.
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
Click on Jess' photograph for a wonderful interview from "The Bookseller" website, talking about "THE NIGHT SHIP"