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*** COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED ***
~ 17 HRS on MP3 CD
Read by Richard Aspel
The story begins in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, theBatavia,is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland. The magnificent ship is already boiling over with a mutinous plot that is just about to break into the open when, just off the coast of Western Australia, it strikes an unseen reef in the middle of the night. While Commandeur Francisco Pelsaert decides to take the longboat across 2,000 miles of open sea for help, his second-in-command Jeronimus Cornelisz takes over, quickly deciding that 250 people on a small island is unwieldy for the small number of supplies they have.
Quietly, he puts forward a plan to 40 odd mutineers how they could save themselves, kill most of the rest, and spare only a half-dozen or so women, including his personal fancy, Lucretia Jansz - one of the noted beauties of Holland - to service their sexual needs. A reign of terror begins, countered only by a previously anonymous soldier, Wiebbe Hayes, who begins to gather to him those are prepared to do what it takes to survive....
4 stars as it is very hard to read as the descriptions are graphic and the times were savage and hard - it is not a book to love. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt a lot about the wreck and the lives of the crew and passengers. I have seen the replica of the Batavia in WA and it is very small - how so many lived in such a confined space is hard to believe. Knowing the WA coast and how bleak and harsh it still is, it is easy to understand that survival was so difficult. The story was properly brought to life - the rescue is still incredible.
I was given this fine book by my Aussie in-laws as a Christmas present - thank you Mum and Dad, I'm grateful.
This is a well written and highly readable account of a very gruesome incident in Australia's early colonial period (as opposed to the thousands of years of native history that preceded the fateful arrival of European imperialism). Prior to reading this book I was only vaguely aware of the Dutch VOC and it's role in Aussie history - so was considerably enlightened. The account of 17th Century trade and seafaring that makes up the first quarter of the account is interesting in its own right; things get really interesting once the account reaches the wreck (of the Batavia) and subsequent desparate gory details. If this wasn't a true story, one would be forgiven for judging it as a homage to Conrad (at its best) or an attempt at Boy's Own Fiction ( at those rare bits when it's not so good).
I understand that the author is a celebrity back in Aus, although I can only vaguely remember him for his rugby exploits and am unaware of his subsequent work as a journo. His writing style is solid, not entirely academic but highly readable. It took me a week to get through this book - in part due to the easy writing style. The author's attempts at keeping within historic boundaries are worth mentioning and are highly commendable. The use of old Dutch and extensive cross-referencing to source material is particularly noteworthy. These high aspirations also help to excuse the odd anachronism and Australianism - this is an Aussie writing for an Aussie audience after all.
Recommended to those who like Conrad, popular history non-fiction and perhaps unsurprisingly historical fiction (it can read like fiction in places).
**NB: Photo depicts the novel mentioned but is not necessarily the same cover as that on actual audiobook.
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