The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

1628. Embarking on a journey in search of her father, a young girl called Mayken boards the Batavia, the most impressive sea vessel of the age. During the long voyage, this curious and resourceful child must find her place in the ship’s busy world, and she soon uncovers shadowy secrets above and below deck. As tensions spiral, the fate of the ship and all on board becomes increasingly uncertain.

1989. Gil, a boy mourning the death of his mother, is placed in the care of his irritable and reclusive grandfather. Their home is a shack on a tiny fishing island off the Australian coast, notable only for its reefs and wrecked boats. This is no place for a child struggling with a dark past and Gil’s actions soon get him noticed by the wrong people.

The Night Ship is an enthralling tale of human brutality, providence and friendship, and of two children, hundreds of years apart, whose fates are inextricably bound together.

My proof copy

My thoughts :

Thank you to Canongate Books and Readers First for the opportunity to read and review this dual timeline historical fiction novel. This is the first time I’ve read a book written by Jess Kidd.

As the synopsis states, part of the story is based on young Mayken, who finds herself travelling on the Batavia in 1628 to live with her father, 7 months sailing time away from the home she shared with her late mother.

We also meet Gil, who in 1989, finds himself living with his grandfather on an island off the coast of Australia, said to be haunted by the ghost of a child from the Batavia, after the sudden death of his mother.

This beautifully written book weaves both elements of the story together, as Mayken and Gil explore their new ‘homes’, and start to learn more about themselves and their new companions. I hadn’t heard of the Batavia before, but Jess Kidd brought the sights, sounds and smells of the ship to life.

This is a dark story in places, full of violence and corruption, but also uplifting as some people try to help Mayken and Gil, despite the risks to themselves. There are also moments of humour throughout too. I found myself desperately wanting to know what happened next, as the suspense in both parts of the story increased.

Happy to recommend this book. I now need to read more of Jess Kidd’s books – do you have one you wish to recommend?

Author Bio:

Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from County Mayo. She is the author of three acclaimed novels for adults, HimselfThe Hoarder and Things in Jars, and a book for children, Everyday Magic. In 2017, Kidd won the Costa Short Story Award and in 2020 she was picked by The Times as one of the best emerging Irish writers.


By Karen K is reading

An avid reader from the age of 4. Love escaping into a good novel after a busy day working with students. Mum. Adopter of dogs.

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