Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
IT'S A STORY that captures the imagination perhaps more than
any other and it's true - not a masterpiece of fictional ingenuity
but an historical fact that, on Tuesday, April 28, 1789, a mutiny
led by Master's Mate, Fletcher Christian, occurred on a relatively
insignificant little ship called the Bounty.
It happened close to the island of Tofua, in the southern Pacific
ocean, as Bounty, under the command of Lieutenant Bligh, was making
her way from Tahiti to the West Indies, with a cargo of breadfruit
trees - breadfruit being a new and, perhaps more importantly,
cheap food for the islands' slave population. But why did it happen?
The majority of us would, no doubt, cite Bligh as the cause -
a brutal officer who abused his men; simple men for the most part
who, on that April morning, were still coming to terms with leaving
the delights (and there were many) of an island paradise and the
daunting prospect of a long and difficult voyage ahead.
And why would we think otherwise? After all, we've been indoctrinated
by Hollywood in three lavish screen versions of the story, as
well as a West End musical, to sympathize with Christian rather
Now though, comes Caroline Alexander's meticulously researched
book, The Bounty - The True Story of the Mutiny
on the Bounty, in which she endeavours to set the record straight,
once and for all.
It's a beautifully written account, made totally believable by
numerous and cleverly interwoven quotations from actual records.
In this, there is inevitably a discrepancy of style and grammar
that isn't always easy but it's something worth persevering with
as, ultimately, it works extremely well.
And her account isn't just about the mutiny. It does, in fact,
encompass every aspect of the event, its aftermath and the people
whose lives it touched.
Furthermore, it paints a vivid and often disturbing picture
of life in the 18th Century - not only in England but at sea,
on tropical islands and, surprisingly maybe, in France where the
Revolution was at its height.
Also included, are a number of maps and photographs so, in many
instances, faces can be put to names. The one omission, and I
have to say I'm disappointed, is Fletcher Christian. Means though,
I can stick with Mel Gibson!
This surely will be the definitive account of one of England's
most infamous historical episodes. So, what really did happen
on that ill-fated breadfruit voyage of 1789?
To find out, you'll have to read Alexander's account yourself.
Suffice to say, it proves indubitably, that human nature is constant,
regardless of time or place. And not necessarily, in the way you're