I love Jess Kidd’s writing and absolutely loved Things in Jars which came out back in 2020. Kidd has a way of weaving supernatural stories with lyrical prose and creating something extremely unique and captivating. I was ecstatic to get an ARC of her newest book The Night Ship, but I struggled with this book.
Told through the POV of two children and in two very different time periods. We follow Mayken as she sets sail on the Batavia for what is now Jakarta in 1629 from The Netherlands. Mayken is an interesting little girl with a vivid imagination and a kind heart. For the most part her POV is a recollection of the Batavia’s journey, including once the ship is shipwrecked off the coast of Australia. Her tale while will with creativity, is a sad one filled with loss. There is a bit of magical realism woven in through the story of a eel like creative, and since we know the Batavia was shipwrecked from the beginning, it’s more of a historical count of what may have transpired on the ship during it’s months at sea.
Our second POV is from Gil’s perspective in 1989. After the death of his mother, Gil returns to the island where the Batavia was shipwrecked to live with his grandfather. Those that live on the island are mainly fisherman and the occasional scientist/ archeologist. Gil’s story, like Mayken’s is filled with loss and trying to find his way in the world.
Neither POV is particularly plot driven. While Jess Kidd has the most vivid descriptions and can build an atmosphere like no other, the plot and point of this book really missed the mark for me. I kept waiting for the two story lines to interweave, but besides a few quick moments of magical realism and Gil being intrigued by the story of the Batavia, these were almost two separate stories. The parallels between the lives of Gil and Mayken, are tied more by the themes within their stories versus the actual story. I almost would have preferred for this to be two different books, instead of rolled into one.
Kidd is an excellent writer but this is not my favorite. It was honestly to depressing for me and as a new mom, I just don’t have the capacity for sad books are dark historical fictions at the moment. I did enjoy learning about the Batavia, and ended up doing a deep dive into it’s history but that was the most intriguing thing about the book for me. This one took more over a week to read and was a 2.5★ for me. Rounding up to 3★ simply because Kidd’s writing is always beautiful.
TW: Child death, overdose
The Night Ship comes out October 4, 2022! Huge thank you to Atria Books for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof.books.
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