Batavia Ship in Lelystad Netherlands
Photo by Yapsalot used under a Creative Commons license.

Simon Leys, The Wreck of the Batavia (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006).
Two completely distinct works under one cover. The first is a short (60 small pages) account of the wreck of the Batavia, a Dutch vessel en route from Holland to Indonesia which ran ashore on the reefs of the Houtman Absrolhos, fifty miles of southwest Australia. The crew and passengers had time to evacuate and salvage much from the ship. A contingent set sail for Indonesia for help, leaving the remainder to a seventeenth-century version of The Lord of the Flies. Some of the remains of the expedition are now in Fremantle, Western Australia. The second book (even shorter at 50 page) is a memoir of a tour in the late 1950s on a fishing boat – one of the last operating under sail – out of Etel, Brittany. “In its heyday, Etel had a tuna-fishing fleet of nearly two hundred sailing boats – yawls, ketches and cutters – but these were progressively replaced by motor vessels, and now only two yawls remain: Prosper and Étoile de France. ” Leys sailed on the Prosper.

Here is Google Book Search. Here are reviews from Ray Cassin (The Age), Peter Robb (The Monthly), and David Warren. Here are posts from Jen, t.s., and Dave Coulter. See also William Coleman’s take.

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