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Mike Dash is the author of the national bestseller Tulipomania. A journalist and Cambridge-educated historian, he lives in London. From the Hardcover edition.
Dash clearly has a yen for the quirky. After examining the trouble a few flowers caused in Tulipomania, he turns to a brutal mutiny in 1629 aboard the Batavia, a treasure ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Dash's sociology of the paranormal (Borderlands) and of obsession in Holland (Tulipomania) prepared him nicely for this telling of a 17th-century ship loaded with Dutchmen, treasure and fanaticism. In 1629 the Batavia, a 160-foot merchant ship launched by the Dutch East India Company, was carrying silver to East India when it ran upon coral atolls northwest of Australia and coughed up its passengers. In Dash's account, the survivors 300 passengers and about 50 sociopathic crewmen settled on the tiny island, soon to be called Batavia's Graveyard, and quickly became madhouse models of Dutch social classes. Officers set out in life boats to Java for help, leaving Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a failed apothecary and heretic, in charge; he began terrorizing his own crewmen, then the other marooned passengers. Within two months, 115 of the survivors (including 30 women and children) had murdered each other with swords, pikes, daggers and by drowning (Corneliszoon poisoned an infant that kept him awake). In a narrative reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Dash describes the creeping sadism that sprang from Holland's religious conflicts, which were channeled through the Jim Jones-like charisma of Corneliszoon. The book is driven by Dash's research (a quarter of the book is notes and appendices, including material from newly discovered records in Holland), but the same attention to detail (e.g., the narrative lists and the psychobiography of Corneliszoon) interrupts the pace. The story of the Batavia incident is already well recorded, and even though Dash has taken it to a new level of grotesque accuracy, his nautical drama never truly comes to life. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Brilliantly crafted, deeply researched . . . a gruesome and powerfully written history. [Dash] provides a thorough look at the underlying subject of all expedition stories--the human heart." --Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) "Horrific and mesmerizing . . . No history I've read in years places you so deeply inside a piece of the past."--National Geographic Adventure "Scholarly and exhilarating. Not only history, but an enthralling sea yarn and true-crime thriller." --Associated Press "I read it in one sitting, absolutely enchanted." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch