Friday, June 24, 2011

DIE A DRY DEATH by Greta van der Rol: Review

I've been on a roll lately with getting review requests read and posted on my blog. This whole not working deal is kind of nice! I do get bored occasionally, but I have a stack of books to read, so it's not like I can't find something to do! I've come across so many amazing authors since I've started blogging about books. I wish that I would have started doing this YEARS ago! I had no idea! I finished Die a Dry Death today, and began Feuding Hearts by Shari Richardson. I'm already over half way through that book, and I do believe that the author will be providing a copy of this book for a giveaway on my blog. I will make sure to update as soon as I know more! Now, onto the review!


June 1629. Laden with treasure and the riches of Europe, the merchantman Batavia, flagship of the Dutch East India Company, sails on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam bound for the East Indies. But thirty miles off the coast of Terra Incognita Australis-the unknown south land-she smashes into an uncharted reef. The survivors-women and children, sailors, soldiers and merchants-are washed ashore on a pair of uninhabited, hostile islands, with little food or fresh water. Desperately seeking help, the ship's officers set out in an open boat to make a two-thousand-mile journey to the nearest trading post. While they are gone, from the struggle for survival on the islands, there emerges a tyrant whose brutal lust for power is even deadlier than the reef which wrecked the Batavia.

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, which uses so many different nautical terms as well as incorporates so much history dealing with the shipping trade. 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 makes me draw comparisons between the similar situation in 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 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 the idea of “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.  A college class could really get into a book like this, and explore its deeper meaning and even do a comparison to Lord of the Flies. I 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 ended up being a hero and also 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 am so glad that the author asked me to read and review this novel. 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!

About the Author:
Greta van der Rol was born in Amsterdam and grew up in Perth, Western Australia. These days she lives with her husband in sub-tropical Queensland not far from the beach. Die a Dry Death is one of four books she's written, with a fifth well under way. When she's not writing she enjoys cooking and photography. Die a Dry Death has been rattling around inside her head for twenty-five years. It was born of her fascination for the four Dutch ship wrecks on the Western Australian coast, of which the loss of the Batavia was the first and the best-known.
Greta van der Rol explains 17th Century name difficulties HERE!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful review, Kimberly. I certainly understood your comment about the strange names. I've written a blog post giving an explanation.