Monday, March 23, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary: December 23, 1787, Portsmouth.

14 year-old John Jacob Turnstile is about to be sent to prison when an offer is put to him - a ship has been refitted and is about to set sail with an important mission. The captain's valet has been injured and a replacement must be found immediately. The deal is struck and he finds himself on board.

The ship is HMS Bounty, the captain is William Bligh, and their destination is Tahiti.

Review: When you mention Mutiny on the Bounty to most Australian’s we can all say we know exactly what you are talking about. However for a lot of Aussies press deeper for details and you would get a response along the lines of “Well there was a boat called Bounty, Its Captain was called Bligh, um the crew mutinied….Oh and there was that movie, the one with Mel Gibson”. I know that probably would have been my answer and most of my friends would have been the same. I enjoy history and learning about it and even I never really knew the details or how this tale related to Australia.

I have been unable to find any reference to a John Turnstile being on the ship so it would appear that his character was created to tell the story, which works really well here. He is brought on board as the Captain’s servant so by default knows a lot of what is going on and is best placed to tell the tale.
"When daylight came on the second day I was able to take full account of the predicament we found ourselves in."
What I really liked is that the author did not portray any of the characters in a particularly negative light. He showed that they were all just men really who each made some mistakes. I liked that I was able to form my own opinions of the characters and not be swayed by the authors writing. Turnstile’s views of the people are expressed but there was never a feeling that you were reading the authors views, jut the view of a fourteen year old boy.

From what I can tell this book is very close to the actual account of what happened during the voyage. For me having the actual events portrayed in this way made it all come alive and more real. Boyne was able to really convey the conditions on the boat and the journey. There was not a point in the book where I did not learn something new like bathing on a boat, superstitions of sailors, and that if a Captain lost his ship in the 1700’s he was put on trial.

I was particularly interested to learn that Bligh was not in fact a true Captain he was for lack of a better word only acting in the position. Also that later on in life he became the Governor of NSW. At the end of the book John Boyne mentions all the reference material he used such as the trail transcripts and diaries written by Bligh, Boyne clearly did his homework and it shines through the book.

Also Boyne cleverly wove old cockney language with modern language so that the reader was able to feel like they were really were on a ship in the 1700’s, while making it easy to follow.

This was a really enjoyable book and I will be definitely picking up another of his books. A good book for anyone wanting to learn some history in particular about the Mutiny on the Bounty.


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  2. This one sounds like such an interesting book--informative and entertaining. I am glad you liked it, Caspette. I really appreciate it when an author can capture the time period and setting so well as to make it come across as authentic. It sounds like Boyne does that here. Wonderful review.