Sunday, August 18, 2013


Another Australian novel for the Aussie Author Challenge; I recently finished Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons. I am a fan of Peter's writing - he makes history very accessible and turns the historical figures into three-dimensional (living and breathing) characters. This novel about the ship wrecked Batavia was no different.

This story is truly horrific, and hard to believe that it could actually happen. But they do say that real life is often stranger than fiction. I know that Peter will have taken some liberties in developing character traits, but they can't have been too much of a stretch, since true evil must have existed for these events to have occurred.
   So in the 1600s, a huge ship, travelling for the Dutch East India Company from the Netherlands to Indonesia on a spice run (and carrying a huge fortune of bullion) hit a reef off Geraldton in WEstern Australia and sunk. It was the ship's maiden voyage. The survivors got themselves into low islands along the belt of reefs. The captain of the ship took one of the long boats and got themselves up to Indonesia to return with another ship to rescue those stranded.
   In the meantime, the survivors became divided by the scheming of the 2IC on the Batavia. Gratuitous murder began, along with rape, the division and isolation of groups, bribery and captivity. Of the original 341 people on board the Batavia, only 68 survived!
   Peter's writing brings the history to life in an extremely readable, page-turning form. It is well researched, but presented in such a way that is not just listing facts.

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