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Book Club Questions for The Night Ship by Jess Kidd (+ Printable PDF)

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the night ship book club questions

Book club questions for The Night Ship by Jess Kidd explore the themes of friendship, bravery, curiosity, and the complexity of human relationships.

This is a heartbreaking story of two children who live 300 years apart. A young Dutch girl Mayken who sailed on the ship Batavia, and the young boy named Gil who was sent to live with his grandfather after the death of his mother.

The book is based on the actual shipwreck of the Batavia and includes insight into the history of the survivors.

How did you like this novel? ✨

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

In this blog post you will find the discussion questions for The Night Ship by Jess Kidd.

For a complete list of Jess Kidd’s books in order, click here!

At the bottom of this post I have prepared a printable PDF with downloadable book club questions for this novel so you can use them with your book clubs, and I also have some additional suggestions for novels that share similar themes and narratives.

Book Club Questions | Additional Recommendations | Printable List

About the Story

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd is a historical novel that tells the story of two characters, Mayken and Gil, whose lives are connected by a tiny island off Western Australia.

In 1629, Mayken, a curious and adventurous young girl, finds herself shipwrecked on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. During her journey, she explores the ship and the waters around it, searching for a mythical monster. However, the real dangers might be closer than she realizes.

In 1989, Gil, a lonely boy, moves to the same island where his mother once lived. There, he learns about the story of a notorious shipwreck that happened years ago. As he uncovers the island’s secrets, the past and present intertwine in unexpected ways.

With Jess Kidd’s masterful storytelling, the novel explores themes of friendship, sacrifice, brutality, and forgiveness. It’s a tale of adventure and mystery, beautifully written and filled with twists, making it a truly magical read.

About the Author

Jess Kidd grew up in London as a part of a big family from County Mayo. She went back to college as a mature student with a scholarship, and after graduating she lectured and taught creative writing to all age groups.

jess kidd author

Her debut novel, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards 2016, Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2017 and longlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2017. Her second novel, The Hoarder, was shortlisted for Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019.

Both books were selected for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. Jess’s third novel, Things in Jars, was published to critical acclaim.

Her fourth book, an epic shipwreck saga called The Night Ship, is out this year.

Jess recently contributed short fiction to The Haunting Season, a collection of ghostly winter tales, while her first book for children Everyday Magic is a teacher’s pick.

Book Club Questions for The Night Ship

Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.

  1. Considering the historical context of the Dutch East India Company and the colonial era, how did the novel address issues of power, privilege, and colonialism? Were there moments that shed light on the societal norms and inequalities of the time? How did these historical elements enrich your understanding of the characters and their challenges?
  2. The novel delves into the darker aspects of human nature, especially in the events following the Batavia shipwreck. How did the portrayal of evil characters like Cornelisz impact your reading experience? Did you find their actions believable, or did you think certain characters’ motivations needed more exploration?
  3. How did Jess Kidd’s vivid descriptions of the Batavia and Beacon Island engage your senses and immerse you in the settings? Were there any elements of the sea voyage that felt familiar or surprising to you?
  4. In the early chapters, how does Kidd juxtapose Mayken and Gil’s individual journeys? How does Gil’s outsider status contribute to the narrative? In what ways does his “otherness” parallel Mayken’s experiences?
  5. What tone permeates the story, and how does the language used by the author enhance this tone? What other elements in the book contribute to the overall atmosphere?
  6. Explore the similarities and differences between Mayken and Gil, despite the vast time gap between them. What shared experiences do they have, and how do these experiences shape their characters?
  7. Mayken and Gil both experience profound feelings of isolation and struggle to find a sense of belonging. How do their journeys reflect the universal themes of loneliness and the search for connection? In what ways do their experiences resonate with contemporary issues?
  8. The novel employs a dual timeline structure, alternating between Mayken’s story in 1629 and Gil’s story in 1989. How did this narrative structure impact your engagement with the story? Did you find one timeline more compelling than the other? How did the interweaving of these timelines enhance the overall narrative?
  9. As tensions escalate during the Batavia’s voyage and after the shipwreck, what role does the Bullebak play in the story? How is this mirrored in Gil’s time through the use of the Bunyip?
  10. Storytelling is a central theme in “The Night Ship,” including folklore and family histories. What is the author attempting to convey through these layers of storytelling? How do these narratives enrich the overall plot?
  11. Mayken and Gil both have surrogate parental figures throughout their journeys. Analyze the roles of these stand-in parents (such as Imke, Holdfast, Dutch, and Silvia) and discuss their significance in shaping the characters of Mayken and Gil.
  12. Loss is a key element in the lives of Mayken and Gil, particularly the loss of their mothers. Reflect on the major and minor losses experienced by these characters and how these events influence their development.
  13. Did you find yourself relating to any specific character in the novel? If so, who and why? What aspects of their experiences resonated with you?
  14. Jess Kidd is known for her descriptive and atmospheric writing style. How did her prose enhance your reading experience? Were there specific passages or descriptions that stood out to you? Did the writing style contribute to the overall immersion in the story?
  15. Towards the end of the book, the chapters become shorter. Why do you think the author made this stylistic choice? How do these brief chapters contribute to the sense of urgency in the conclusion of the story?
  16. Considering that “The Night Ship” is inspired by real historical events, as mentioned in the epilogue, what do you think readers should learn from Mayken’s story? What larger themes or messages can be drawn from her experiences?
  17. Jess Kidd’s writing blends various genres and themes. If you had to summarize this book in one sentence, how would you describe it? What elements define the essence of “The Night Ship”?

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Night Ship by Jess Kidd!

Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book:

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes a tale of lost souls, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home.

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it’s named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she’s thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton

Alive with the magic of Amsterdam, the enchanting new historical novel from the author of the sensational New York Times bestseller The Miniaturist, which has sold more than two million copies.

In 1705 Amsterdam, Thea Brandt is coming of age, trying to grapple with her family’s secrets and her own identity as a young Dutch-African woman. She’s drawn to the theater and an artistic life, but with her family in serious financial decline, pressure is on Thea to marry up in society.

As her father and Aunt Nella work desperately to save the family home and catastrophe threatens to engulf them, Thea seeks refuge in the arms of her secret lover, Walter, the chief set-painter at her favorite theater. But the thrill of their romance is shadowed by another secret she keeps close: Her birthday marks the day her mother, Marin, died in labor.

Thea’s family refuses to share the details of the story, just as they seem terrified to speak of the shadowy artist from their past whose tiny figurines seem to capture the things most carefully hidden away. Aunt Nella believes the solution to Thea’s problems is to find her a husband, and an unexpected invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball seems like a golden opportunity. But when a miniature figure of Walter turns up on Thea’s doorstep, it becomes clear that someone out there has another fate in mind for the family- and that perhaps the new beginning Thea seeks won’t depend on a man.

A feat of sweeping, magical storytelling, The House of Fortune is an unputdownable novel about love and obsession, family and loyalty, and the fantastic power of secrets.

Homecoming by Kate Morton

The highly anticipated new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, a sweeping novel that begins with a shocking crime, the effects of which echo across continents and generations

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of a grand country house, a local man makes a terrible discovery. Police are called, and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most baffling murder investigations in the history of South Australia.

Many years later and thousands of miles away, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for two decades, she now finds herself unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and is seriously ill in the hospital.

At Nora’s house, Jess discovers a true crime book chronicling a long-buried police case: the Turner Family Tragedy of 1959. It is only when Jess skims through its pages that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this notorious event – a mystery that has never been satisfactorily resolved.

An epic story that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, how we protect the lies we tell, and what it means to come home. Above all, it is an intricate and spellbinding novel from one of the finest writers working today. 

For my book club questions for this book, click here!

Printable PDF

Feel free to distribute these discussion questions to your book club members before your meeting. Simply click the link below to download and print the PDF file.

Happy reading! ❤️