Based on a real-life event, a historical novel that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.
The novel weaves these narratives with dexterity and balance, and it is more than just two stories with coincidences of place, character or circumstances. The intersections or inflections suggest historical consciousness; how the past continues to impact the present. It is also a gripping read and the alternating chapters, sometimes just a page long, create a compelling momentum. I couldn’t put it down ... Kidd has created two of the most exuberantly likable characters I’ve encountered in a long time, their beauty both tempered and amplified by flashes of dark humour ... The Night Ship is immersive, vivid and immediate, teeming with sensory detail that could only have come from extensive and diligent research and told in beautifully assured prose. For days after, I felt as if I were still trying to find my land legs. The decision to frame the events of this shipwreck and its meanings through the perspectives of children at different historical moments is devastating and potent.
Jess Kidd has been carving out a genre all her own, an intricate collage of folklore, modern gothic, ghost story, historical caper and magical realism. The Night Ship, her fourth novel, brings together many of these elements ... The stories unfold in alternate chapters, linked by repeated phrases, talismans and the myth of a terrifying sea monster ... If it lacks the exuberance of Kidd’s previous novel, Things in Jars, it compensates with a stronger sense of mastery over the material and a greater depth of feeling alongside her undisputed comic talents.
Forgiving the heavy-handedness of the parallels...there’s plenty of intrigue at the start of Jess Kidd’s novel ... Yet it struggles to get beyond a low simmer ... Part of the reason the narrative feels lukewarm is to do with the novel’s form. We rarely make it through half a page before getting to a break in the text. Initially, this is pleasing ... Yet stretched over nearly 400 pages, this is testing ... Questions we might expect — about the effects of power, about the thinness of the line between order and anarchy — largely don’t come up and you’re left wishing the pot had got a little hotter.