This superb novel explores the uneasy guilt felt by the victim of a great crime - a mutiny and massacre on an island off the coast of Western Australia in the early Seventeenth Century. The Dutch flagship, the Batavia, ran aground, and when her captain left in an open boat to fetch help, the ship's under-merchant, Cornelitz, led a regime of barbarism that had Holland stunned for a generation.
Heyman retells the story from the perspective of Judith Bastiansz, a naive but spirited eighteen year old, whose venial father is employed as the ship's chaplain. The ship and then the island are the claustrophobic setting for her increasing exposure to the unbearable harshness of deception, treachery and finally an uncontrolable lust for death. Her adulation of Lucretia, her love for Conraat, and her disapproval of Wiebbe Hayes all serve to highlight her intense but misguided allegiences. From the outset we know that Judith will survive the horrors of her ordeal, but how and at what cost? What kind of life can she build from the ruins of hope?
From an already amazing true story, Heyman has crafted a subtle and riveting novel. Though set in the Dutch Golden Age, there are clear parallels with the genocides of the much more recent past. Heyman's unflinching, intensely moving prose seems to require us to answer for ourselves: faced with such evil, what would *you* have done ?