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Sep 09

Book Review: The Blue-Eyed Aborigine by Rosemary Hayes

The Blue-Eyed Aborigine by Rosemary HayesSummary (Walker Books Australia)

Intriguing, hard-hitting story – first half is based on historical events, second half is fictional

It is 1629, and there is mutiny in the air aboard the Dutch ship Batavia as she plies her way towards Java with her precious cargo. Jan, a cabin boy, and Wouter, a young soldier, find themselves caught up in the tragic wrecking and bloody revolt that follow. But worse is to come… Based on the diaries of the ship’s Commander, Rosemary Hayes recaptures some of sea history’s most dramatic moments, linking the fates of of Jan and Wouter with discoveries that intrigue Australians to this day.

Comments

My knowledge of Australian history is rather limited and I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know very much about the Batavia before reading this novel, although I was familiar with the name of the ship and the fact that it was shipwrecked off the west coast of Australia.

I enjoyed reading this novel, partly because it sparked my interest in this evetn in Australian history and partly because it didn’t romanticise life on board the Batavia or the actions of the crew and soldiers after they were shipwrecked. As a work of historical fiction it was both entertaining and informative and it inspired me to read more about the fateful voyage of the Batavia and the events that followed the shipwreck.

I thought that Hayes’ fictional ending to the story seemed quite plausible and it will be interesting to see what further evidence science uncovers to support her theories about Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Looes having contact with local Aboriginal people.

The starkness of the descriptions of life on board the Batavia and the violent acts of some soldiers and crew after the shipwreck make me hesitant to recommend this book for readers under the age of 13, although I would certainly do so for teen readers, particularly those with an interest in Australian history.

Review Copy Details
Title: The Blue-Eyed Aborigine
Author: Rosemary Hayes
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-14-84780-078-7
Genre: YA Historical Fiction (13+)

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2 comments

  1. Marg

    If you ever go to Perth you can actually see parts of the Batavia that were salvaged and now are on permanent display in the Shipwreck Gallery of the Maritime Museum in Fremantle.

    I had heard of the Batavia as a result of doing a few years of primary school in Perth, but hadn’t heard it mentioned since then. We were there last year and seeing the wreck certainly reignited my interest in the subject of the Dutch explorers who explored parts of the WA coastline long before English explorers did.
    .-= Marg´s last blog ..Library Loot- 8 to 14 September =-.

    1. Susan

      I was in Perth many, many years ago and remember seeing the Batavia wreck back then. I don’t remember any details about it, just the parts of the wreck, which I think they were restoring at the time.

      We seem to focus so much on the east coast explorers, it was very interesting to read about events from the west coast, even if the final part of the book was purely fictional.

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