Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Die a Dry Death by Greta Van Der Rol

280 survivors. One tyrant. The true story of the Batavia shipwreck.

This novel tells the chilling, true story of the shipwreck of the Dutch merchantman Batavia. The barbaric events that unfolded could so easily have been the template for William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

In June 1629, the Batavia, laden with treasure and the riches of Europe, smashed into an uncharted reef thirty miles off the coast of Terra Incognita Australis—the unknown Great South Land. 200 survivors—women and children, sailors, soldiers and merchants—scrambled ashore on a small group 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 port. While they were gone, from the struggle for survival on the islands there emerged a tyrant whose brutal lust for power was even deadlier than the reef that wrecked the Batavia. 

To Die a Dry Death is a novel about the shipwreck of the Batavia, a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company. Laden with riches and treasure, the ship struck ground near the coast of western Australia in the year 1629. Like the Titanic, it was her maiden voyage. The men, women, and children who managed to flee the sinking ship found refuge on deserted small islands with only a few barrels of food and water to sustain them. Food and water were scarce or non-existent on the islands upon which they landed.

The ship's captain, an official with the Dutch East India Company, and a handful of crewmembers set sail in a longboat headed for Batavia (Jakarta) searching of help and supplies. They promised to return to rescue the survivors and retrieve the valuables. What happened after they departed can only be described as a nightmare.

Thirst, starvation, and a primitive existence brought out the worst in some of the survivors. In their struggle to survive, prejudices and greed surfaced. Sailor vs soldier, men vs women, German vs Dutch vs French. A tyrant came to rule and he secretly ordered the weak to be killed, one by one.

This is not a story for the weak kneed. It is a tale of survival, of brutality, and finally vindication. Intense research into the shipwreck leads to a factual tale that reads like a suspense novel. Although there are numerous characters, the story is easy to follow, shocking as well as poignant at times as the horrific crimes are described. There is a great surprise at the end as well.

Long after closing the book, the story will continue to haunt. For those who love to read factual based fiction, and who love to be gripped and shocked, this book is definitely for you.

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