Friday, April 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: To Die A Dry Death by Greta van der Rol


Surviving the shipwreck was the easy part 1629. Shipwrecked on an uncharted reef thirty miles off the coast of Australia, two hundred men, women and children scramble ashore on tiny, hostile islands. There is no fresh water and the only food is what they can salvage from the wreck, or harvest from the sea. The ship’s officers set out in an open boat on a two-thousand-mile journey across uncharted ocean to seek help. But there's not enough food and water for everyone on the islands to last until a rescue ship arrives. One man will stop at nothing to ensure that he is among the survivors. But adversity throws up heroes. Soon there's war between two groups, both determined to be there to greet that rescue ship when it arrives. If it arrives. The terrifying true story of the Batavia shipwreck. Contains graphic violence.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and extremely well researched. I couldn’t imagine writing a novel such as this one, because it uses so many different nautical terms as well as incorporates so much history dealing with the shipping trade. Ms. van der Rol also does a great job in examining the “good” and “evil” side of man.

To Die a Dry Death is a true adventure story, full of ups and downs, good and evil, and even a couple of pretty sexy love scenes! It made me draw a few comparisons between this book and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A group of people are trapped together on an island and forced to find the means to survive, and eventually this brings about man’s innate savage nature. It is especially interesting considering that this story is based on a true events.

Cornelisz, the leader of the people on the island they are stranded on, Batavia’s Graveyard, is an intelligent, sophisticated man. Faced with 140 people on an island without enough water or food, he chooses to forget his civilized roots and decides that survival of the fittest is the right choice for the shipwrecked people. Cornelisz justifies his deeds by saying, “We had not enough supplies for all. Is it best that we all must suffer and die? Should we not try to ensure that some will survive? Those strongest, fittest?” When looking at it that way, you might think he is right, however the way he went about ensuring that the “fittest” would survive was not what a civilized person might consider “right.”

It seems that the men in this novel were much quicker and happier to return to their savage roots than the boys in Lord of the Flies. It took a little while for the boys to reach the point where they could kill without regret, but the men in To Die a Dry Death were soldiers and sailors for the most part, and they had already been exposed to death and savagery during their lifetime. This made it easier for them to kill, plus there was the “mob behavior,” where it is easier for people as a group to kill or destroy, because they become anonymous within a group, and this allows them to disassociate themselves from their behavior. I think this would be a great book for a college class to read and study, and explore its deeper meaning and even do a comparison to Lord of the Flies. I also think it would make for a great movie!

The names were a little hard for me to follow at times, mostly because they are foreign to me. I really liked Captain Adriaen Jacobz at the beginning of the book, and I was a little confused when he was incarcerated, and nothing was said about his situation again until the very end. In reality, it is not known what happened to Captain Jacobz, but the author included a little bit about him in the conclusion of the book in order to add a little hope to his story. Wiebbe Hayes is another character that I really enjoyed in this book. He became one of the characters that seemed to show the "good" side of man.  I think a lot of the characters represented either the good vs. evil aspect of humans.

Another character that would be extremely interesting to dissect is Pelsaert. At times he seems to be the 'good' guy who wants to save the people left on the island, but at other times it’s obvious that all he cares about is saving face in front of the shipping company he works for and finding the treasure and money that were shipwrecked. It’s obvious by the end of the book that he cares only for himself and the merchandise he is trying to recover; when a group of sailors (including Sardam’s Captain) are lost along with the best boat for pulling up the barrels while they are looking for merchandise, Palsaert says, “God grant the boat return soon.” 

I love that the characters are based on people who really had been on this shipwreck. Greta van der Rol did an excellent job of using creative license with the characters to really bring them alive for the reader.

I learned so much, and had a hard time putting the book down at times. The names confused me a little bit, and having a Captain Jacobsz and a Captain Jacopsz REALLY confused me, but once I had a handle on the names I was good and reading was smooth. I would 100% recommend this novel to any of my readers. I am impressed with everything about this book, and the fact that it is Historical Fiction makes is pretty much near perfect for me!

This novel definitely deserves 5 out of 5 Stars!


"The most intriguing aspect of this story is how the author skillfully unravels one man's motives for gaining power through use of fear and examines to what lengths a person will go to preserve his own life. With such complex and deeply motivated characters, conflict abounds, creating a fast-paced and thrilling read ... Peppered throughout are exquisite details: of vivid seascapes, clothing, work implements, and nautical terminology. Readers who love to be immersed in a historical period will appreciate the precise research that has gone into this work; while those who enjoy an action-oriented and plot-driven story will be riveted." - Historical Novel Review

"Greta's imaginative portrayal of Cornelisz is brilliant. She shows how the desire to survive turns him into a monster and yet allows him moments of strange tenderness when in love ... this is indeed a compelling tale and Greta has been fascinated by the story for twenty five years. Her writing skills are impeccable. One is drawn immediately into the scenario and carried on by the sheer power of her depiction, the characters she builds and the settings she creates. But it is an unrelentingly dark tale, so be warned." - Loretta Proctor, Books and Other Thing

"I planned to read this novel over the course of a week. Instead, I found myself staying up (far too) late and finished it in two nights. I found it nearly impossible to put down ... I definitely enjoyed this novel more than most. The pacing is fast, the characters believable, and I would almost certainly read it again. Highly recommended." - Spann of Time

About the Author:

Greta van der Rol loves writing action-packed adventures with a side salad of romance. Most of her work is space opera, but she has written paranormal and historical fiction.

She lives not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoys photography and cooking when she isn't bent over the computer. She has a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping her in her writing endeavours.

Greta's brand new book, "Crisis at Validor", is available now. It's number four in the Ptorix Empire series.

Greta van der Rol explains 17th Century name difficulties HERE!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the new review. Just to let you know, the article I wrote about 17th century Dutch names has moved to this address.