The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

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9780002572217: The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

'It is incredible! These very young men I placed every confidence in, yet these great Villains… got possession of the Arms and took the Bounty from me… I have been run down by my own dogs.'

The bestselling author of The Endurance reveals the startling truth behind the legend of the MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY – the most famous sea story of all time.

More than two centuries have passed since Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lt. Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend.

In giving the story its historical due, Caroline Alexander has framed her narrative by focussing on the court martial of the ten mutineers captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in Portsmouth.This fresh perspective, based on new information from her extensive research, wondefully revivifies the entire saga; she uses the mutineers’ own testimony at trial to tell of that April morning in 1789 when Christian’s breakdown impelled every man on a fateful course: Bligh and his loyalists on the historic open boat voyage that revealed him to be one of the history’s greatest navigators; Christian on his restless exile; and the captured mutineers towards their day in court. As the book unfolds, each figure emerges as a richly drawn character caught up in a drama that may well end on the gallows. And as Alexander shows, it was in a desperate fight to escape the hangman that one of the accused defendants deliberately spun the mutiny into the myth we know today – of the tyrannical Lt Bligh.

Ultimately, Alexander concludes that the Bounty mutiny was sparked by that most unpredictable, combustible and human of situations – the chemistry between strong personalities living in close quarters. Her account of the voyage, the trial and the surprising fates of Bligh, Christian and the mutineers is an epic of ambition, passion, pride and duty at the dawn of the Romantic era.

With the scholarship of a great work of history and the exquisitely drawn characters and deft story telling of the best fiction, Caroline Alexander’s Bounty is a tour de force. As it draws to its close on Pitcairn and in London, the reader is left feeling that history has been rewritten.

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Review:

Few episodes in the history of British sea-faring are as gripping and sensational as The Bounty--an account of a mutiny of 1789. While the French were having a revolution in Paris, in the South Pacific a very English coup took place when Master's mate Fletcher Christian deposed Captain Bligh, the ruler of his ship, and set off with his fellow mutineers for a new life in the paradise of Tahiti. The tale has all the ingredients of an adventure--Robinson Crusoe, Captain Cook, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lord of the Flies all rolled into one. And, as Caroline Alexander points out, myth and legend have often got in the way of the real truth of why the mutiny took place. She sets out to find out what really happened, and does so by not only reconstructing the fateful voyage of the ship, but also by focusing in on all the principal and minor characters in the drama.

The trouble with this book is that there seems to be too many different tales to tell and the author struggles to keep up with her narrative. Like a lost ship we set sail in one direction only to back-track and recover the same course over again. The promised treasure--why Christian really did it--is never found. Readers wanting a clearer and simpler chart might be better advised to read Captain Bligh's own famous account, and Edward Christian's defence of his brother The Bounty Mutiny and then follow-up with Greg Dening's book, Mr Bligh's Bad Language. --Miles Taylor

Review:

‘With this and her previous book The Endurance, she has made the wondrous genre of open-boat-voyage narratives still more wondrous… This sounds like Conrad writing. A sea mist hangs over this age-old tale. Alexander dispels it, to the reader's fascination. But when all the facts are told and the fates of the cast duly chronicled, the sea mist settles in again, as impenetrable and yet more interesting than it has ever been.’ New York Times Book Review

'Alexander profiles history's most famous mutiny in the same stylish manner she brought to Shackleton's Antarctic expedition in The Endurance…. A great sea story, surpassed perhaps only by the Odyssey, handled with dexterity to capture characters and circumstances with faithfulness to the record and a steady feeling of anticipation for history in the making.' Kirkus

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Alexander, Caroline
Published by Penguin Books 2003-01-01 (2003)
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Caroline Alexander
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