Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Blue-Eyed Aborigine by Rosemary Hayes

Reviewed by Maryom

This book is split into 2 distinct halves - the first based on known facts surrounding a mutiny in 1629 onboard the Batavia, a trading ship sailing from Holland to Java with cargo and passengers, the second following conjecture about what happened after some of the mutineers were marooned on the Australian coast and the sightings, many years later, of blue-eyed aborigines living in the area.
The story starts on board the Batavia, 8 months into her voyage and sailing near the coast of Australia. Following the grounding of the ship on a reef the crew mutiny, setting up camp on a nearby island and abandoning passengers on another, far more inhospitable, nearby. The events are seen through the eyes of cabin boy,Jan Pelgrom, caught up, almost unwittingly, in these events by following his immediate superiors in the ship's crew. Later, when a rescue party arrives, some of the mutineers are hanged but Jan and another are abandoned on the Australian coast as a lesser punishment.
I found the first part of the story to be far more engrossing. Rosemary Hayes captures the dreadful shipboard conditions that were probably quite common at the time, the smells and dirt, the cramped sleeping quarters, the atmosphere of fear and distrust felt amongst the Batavia's crew and later Jan's unthinking siding with the mutineers. The second part didn't grab me so much - maybe everything happened too easily for the marooned sailors.
I found myself a little bit undecided about this book - mainly because I wasn't sure of the target age group. The language and writing style seem pitched at a fairly young reader while the events depicted, sometimes savage and violent, seem targeted at an older readership. Taken all together though, a very interesting account of these events.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher Frances Lincoln
Genre - Historical Fiction (12+)


  1. 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.

  2. Thank you whattup? for posting the publisher's synopsis, but how did you feel after reading the book?