Friday, July 03, 2009

Short Book Review

'You'll not put your feet on me, you bloody bastard'. Those immortal words spoken by the dashing Fletcher Christian to the tyrannical Captain Blyth in the Marlon Brando/Trevor Howard movie version of the tale left a great impression on me as a young man.
Utter nonsense, off course. However, there are, i think historical events and characters that hold the public imagination in ways that will last forever. The infamous Mutiny on the Bounty is one such event.
I've read a few books on the subject and therefore approached this one with a certain amount of caution.
Firstly, the title. 'The True Story of The Mutiny on the Bounty'. This is the first major 'untruth'.
This isn't the author's fault. The fact is that nobody actually knows the whole truth surrounding the events. The only surviving mutineer, John Adams, changed his story so many times when he was discovered on Pitcairn Island that the truth is simply not known.
There are also two main viewpoints. Those who support Fletcher Christian and those who support Captain Blyth. The author is firmly in the latter camp. An opinion that i share. However, she finds no fault at all with the good Captain and this is something that i can't agree with.
The Captain Blyth portrayed in the movies is nothing like the man actually was (although the Mel Gibson/Anthony Hopkins version of the mutiny comes close). He was not a tyrannical bully. In fact as most ship Captains of the time went he was actually quite lenient. The mutiny took place simply because Christian fell in love on Tahiti and didn't want to go home. Understandable enough i suppose for a young man of his age and experience. The minority of the crew followed him for other simple reasons. They were common seamen. If you had the choice of living on a tropical paradise or starving on the streets of Bristol which would you have chosen? Blyth's mistake was giving the crew too much freedom whilst off shore and then leaving it much too late in his attempts to reinstate discipline once back at sea. He did not and does not, however, deserve the reputation he carries to this day.
The author has very little, if anything, good to say about any of the mutineers. This is again an opinion i share as they to a man tried to lie and cheat their way out of accepting any blame for the events that occurred.
The book is reasonably well written but i found it a bit 'dry'. It is meticiously researched, with the passages relating to the Court Martials particularly well done.
In the end, though, it is just one in a series of books about the Mutiny that offers very little new information.
I would still recommend for anyone who has an interest in the subject.

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