The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander - review by Tim Heald

Tim Heald

Shenanigans On Ship

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


HarperCollins 491pp £20 order from our bookshop

THE MUTINY ON the Bounty is one of those real-life episodes which have transcended history and become myth. On the one hand , there's the unspeakable skipper, who keeps shouting a t the crew, confiscati ng t h eir coconuts, lashing them with the cat-o'-nine-tails and generally behaving in a manner contrary to decency and betraying all the traditions and standards of behaviour set down for gentlemen and Royal Naval officers. On the other, there is Fletcher Christian , a glamorous revolutionary oppressed beyond endurance, and a spokesman for democracy, free speech , and free love with anyone in a grass skirt . Old Bligh, of course, is old and pug-ugly, while the boy Christian is rather handsome . The truth of the affair , as this book compellingly demonstrates, is more complicated, more elusive and a lot more interesting.

The basic facts provide common ground between historians and fantasists. In 1787 William Bligh was sent as commander of a small ship called the Bounty to Tahiti to collect breadfruits and transport them to the West Indies, where it was hoped they would flourish and provide cheap food for the

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