This book follows two parallel stories, one set in the 16 hundreds, and the other in the 1980s. Both are told from the perspective of young children – Mayken, a young Dutch girl aboard the infamous ship Batavia, famous in real live for the horrific events surrounding its shipwreck near an island off the coast of Australia, and Gil, a boy sent to live with his grandfather on the island where the Batavia wreck survivors came ashore centuries before.
Gil and Mayken’s stories have many similarities – they both just lost their mothers and have been schooled in what to tell people to hide the truth of how they died. They both feel like outsiders, struggling to find their way and not fitting into the roles society expects from them, and they both suffer horrible abuses at the hands of bad people.
I have loved everything I’ve read by Jess Kidd before, but for me this book lacked the humour and quirkiness of her other books and was just very dark. I don’t know if it’s because I read it after The End of the Day (which I loved, but which had some very bad people in it) and The Gameshouse (which again, had some very bad people doing very bad things to other people) and I’ve just had my limit of reading about bad people. I actually felt depressed and a bit nihilistic after reading this, like, how can anyone live in a world with so much cruelty. It’s probably unfair, because there were good and noble characters as well, and the book is certainly gripping and cleverly written, but my thoughts about it are negative because of the way it made me feel.