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Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed [Hardcover]

Kathy Marks
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (3 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416597441
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416597445
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 15.6 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 718,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By James_Y
I purchased Kathy Marks' book because I wanted to gain an insight into Pitcairn Island from a modern day perspective. I was intrigued by what had gone on, and this was to be a very different insight than the mentions I had read from Simon Winchester and Jared Diamond in historical/travel and anthropological writing. For Pitcairn Island's Mutiny on the Bounty legacy and associated historical ambiguities, I had 'Life And Death In Eden' by Trevor Lummis to absorb me. Incidentally, Lummis' book is highly recommended; I enjoyed it immensely.

Kathy Marks has written here an extensive book on the trials that took place on Pitcairn against the alleged pedophiles and child molestors; amongst other sexual debauchery. She has done so in a very "journalistic" style and at times I feel she is more matched to her normal career endeavours than as an author. The book was at times rather frustrating with its slow moving nature and long windedness. Arguably there was also some repetition between chapters, where cross-linked subjects found themselves having to regurgitate previously mentioned ideas to reinforce a point. In addition, if I had not read Lummis' book I would have been slightly disappointed to find out that Marks had skimmed over the book's potential to include the historical 'Mutiny...' elements. Rightly so, she can leave that to other sources, but the book does rather hint in its synoptical spiel that it might say more about Pitcairn's history than the brevity posed here.

Lastly though, the scope of the Pitcairn Island trials in this context could have led to some very interesting psychological insights, but unfortunately it did not. This must surely be Marks' biggest mistake.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating 9 April 2010
This book is fantastic, it dispels the myth that Pitcairn Island is a paradise. It is well written by Kathy Marks, a Asia- Pacific correspondent who was present at the child abuse trial held on Pitcairn Island in 2004.
It is a book that you can not put down, as the reader you will be absorbed in the facts about the history of the Island, the trial, and the verdict of those accused of the vile crimes to the young people who lived on Pitcairn.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 31 Mar 2014
By denise
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
as a lover of pitcairn I think this book is excellent it tells the real story of pitcairn and the sex trials
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  56 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Account of the Tragedy that Occurred on Pitcairn Island 17 Feb 2009
By scesq - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been fascinated with Pitcairn Island since I first saw Mutiny on the Bounty. I had visions of an island paradise. I then heard about a sexual abuse scandal on the island at one point but the news did not spend much time on it so I did not learn much. Then I saw this book.

While Lost Paradise first and foremost is a book about the horrible sexual abuse and child molestation scandal that occurred on the island it also gives the reader an understanding of how the mutineer's legacy led to this modern day tragedy. The author does a great job in interweaving the stories of a modern day trial on an isolated, remote island of approximately 50 people, most of who were relatives of the mutineers who decided to make the deserted island their home in 1790.

In a moving chapter called "Reaping a Sad Legacy Since Bounty Times" the author explains that after the mutiny Christian returned to Tahiti. After inviting some Tahitians (mostly women) on board for a party Christian cut the anchor cable. One woman jumped overboard and six older woman were left of on a nearby island but a dozen women including a girl of 14 were left for 15 men. She writes "Such is the basis on which Pitcairn was established: women abducted and shared out like rations of rum, then held captive, effectively, on a remote island 1,300 miles from home." Some 10 years later only one mutineer was left alive (as well as most of the women and the children fathered by the other men) because of infighting and illness.

In another chapter called "Lord of the Flies" the author looks at what happens when a small group of people create their own society on a deserted island. She compares the culture to other isolated islands.

I want to stress that this information is intertwined with the stories of those on trial and the victims as well. The information about the trial and life on modern day Pitcairn Island is well documented and seemingly fair.

In order to make this book as good as it is the author needed to be part criminal trial reporter, part historian and part anthropologist. She was all three and more. This is a fascinating book about a terrible abuse scandal on isolated island founded by famous mutineers.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitcairn, Hell on Earth 29 Jan 2009
By Z Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Kathy Marks, the author of "Lost Paradise" was one of only six journalists allowed access to Pitcairn and who covered the sensational trials of several influential Pitcairn inhabitants, prominent men who were accused of the most abhorrent crimes - that of sexual abuse of young girls on the island.

Pitcairn Island has historic significance going back generations, as it was the island that became home to Fletcher Christian and other mutineers from the HMS Bounty. Today, it is home to about 50 descendants of the early settlers and until recently, was viewed as a sort of paradise on earth, an idyllic island, remote and peaceful. Little did the general public know of the dark secrets concealed for generations by the island's inhabitants, and even those from the outside world who were privy to what was going on - that of the systematic sexual abuse of young children, condoned by many of the inhabitants, and seen as part of the island culture. The horrors finally came to light when one young teenage girl alleged rape and the world discovered Pitcairn's horrific secret.

Reading this book is like "The Lord of the Flies" come alive - how a remote society, isolated from the outside world, developed close kinship and strong bonds, and where the strong preyed upon the innocent, almost 'cannibalistic' in nature, where grown men, so-called leaders of others systematically indulged in the violation of innocent children. Worse still, is the revelation of the cult of secrecy surrounding the abuse, where the violated have no voice and rights to decry the abuse, instead are forced to endure and keep silent.
Kathy Marks does an excellent job painting a compelling portrait not only of the case proceedings, but also of the culture of the Pitcairn Islanders and the foundations of the society that allowed for these abuses to go on for so long, unchecked.

I found those who abetted these criminals extremely abhorrent - justifying the abuse as part of the island culture of breaking them in? The attitude of indifference is simply appalling. I wonder at the years of therapy needed to get the victims over their trauma.

This is horrific reading, but very compelling, and I for one could not put the book down. Highly recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great tale though too redundant and narrow in scope 2 Mar 2009
By Michael Heath - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Remote islands are fascinating case studies given that the evolution of species and culture are not nearly as affected by the diversity of nearby populations since there are relatively none. This can often lead to an accelerated rate of evolution of an island's given population with startling results. With Lost Paradise, the subject is how the transplanted group of Bounty mutineer men who kidnapped some Tahitian women were able to create a sustainable society along with the mutations that followed from what advanced or even many primitive civilizations would define as evil.

Kathy Marks has plenty of extraordinarily horrendous material to work with as she describes a society of mutinous kidnappers whose present day progeny end up sexually abusing other families' daughters while turning a blind eye to the abuse of their children. Mark's describes the descent into an extreme form of patriarchy based on the conditions and violence experienced when the Island was first settled. Marks also does a great job of insuring we are able to understand this horror without gratuitous descriptions of the acts. All in an environment that on the surface currently appears to be not much different than other small, culturally British societies that are not as isolated.

Mark's background as a working journalist and the standards for intellectual honesty used here are convincing, much to the dismay of the supporters of this patriarchal society that would prefer the world was not aware of the horrors their women were forced to undergo as a de facto rite of passage. In fact one of the most fascinating perspectives of this story is that most Pitcairners perceive the abusers as the victims, not their wives, sisters, or daughters, who are frequently perceived as traitors.

While I recommend the book given the story and stock I place in Marks' integrity to accurately convey the story, the book itself has two major flaws that limit its impact (due to readability) and narrowness of the perspective.

Marks is excruciatingly thorough in reporting the tale of many of the victims who are still alive in terms of who did what to whom, including those who've since moved away from Pitcairn Island. I would say to the point of stale repitition. This is especially evident after the trial verdicts where Marks spends dozens of pages piling on accounts of abuse in spite of the fact I believe she's already provided ample accounts leading up to the trial verdicts. These dozens of pages could have been easily cut with no loss of perspective.

Soon into the book it becomes self-evident to the reader that the true tales on Pitcairn eerily parallel the classic novel Lord of the Flies (50th Anniversary Edition). Mark's does an excellent job of exploring those parallels in a chapter of that name a couple of dozen pages past the trial verdict. It would have been a far better book if Marks had deleted all the tales between the verdict and this chapter. Marks could have then followed the Lord of the Flies (50th Anniversary Edition) chapter with a chapter or two of perspective based on interviews from sociologists and cultural anthropologists to provide some functional expertise and a broader context to the story. Instead we are left with a lot of great tale, told far too redundantly with no overarching perspective beyond the fact that the banality of evil requires our constant diligence.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A candid view of an outspoken place... was paradise always a myth? 1 Feb 2009
By R S Cobblestone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In 2004, a trial was held on Pitcairn Island, that tiny speck of land in the vast Pacific Ocean, and settled in the 1700s by the mutinous crew of the infamous HMAV (His Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty.

But eventually, Great Britain declared that those events were a long time ago, far, far away. Can't we all be friends?

That seemed to be the case for the remaining families on Pitcairn Island, until allegations of mass rape and child abuse were uncovered.

In Lost Paradise, author and journalist Kathy Marks was selected to accompany the lawyers and judges in a trial that had neighbors accusing neighbors and families accusing families of the gravest misconduct. Marks reviews the initiation of the original investigation, the various trials, and then delves, speculatively, into how and why this abuse could occur, and whether it is the fault of the British government, clueless or powerless religious leaders and school teachers, fearful parents, or simply the result of an island culture's unique history and evolution.

The residents of Pitcairn Island are terribly angry at the British government, their accusers, and Kathy Marks and the other journalists. "The unforgivable crime, in the Pitcairners' eyes, was not sexually assaulting children, but betraying the island" (p. 79).

Marks uses her journalistic eyes and ears to capture, as well as possible for an outsider, the sense of Pitcairn as a place. Although idyllic in some ways, living on a speck in the ocean has its drawbacks as well. It is not a place for the weak-willed. Leaders needed to be strong. And everybody seemed related to everyone else. It is unknown when child abuse on the island started (indeed, when does it start anywhere?), but over the past 40 years its "acceptability" seemed to increase. This "acceptability" wasn't legal, moral, or even discussed. Marks points out evidence during the trials and her investigations afterward that this abuse was a well-know "secret". It was the "Pitcairn way." And, from the islanders' perspective, they wanted to deal with it in their way, not necessarily the British legal system way.

And they certainly didn't appreciate the role of journalists. "While Betty was still friendly to us, in her slightly guarded way, the animosity of most of the other locals was getting me down. It was not as if the islanders knew any of us personally; they disliked us solely because of our jobs. The majority believed, or claimed to believe, that the media were writing and broadcasting fiction. My perception of reality seemed so different from theirs that I sometimes felt like I was going mad" (p. 129).

What I know about the trials (there were more than one) is nothing from the national or international newspapers; my perspective comes entirely from reading this book. Certainly there are known cases of mass delusion involving child abuse, but clearly it occurred. The debate should be not if, but how much and by whom? But the islanders' focus was on the absence of a crime committed. "The only thing that really unites the islanders is survival, and when it comes to survival, community takes precedence over family and individuals. Yet, it is debatable what community means to the people of Pitcairn, or what they are so intent on preserving: the collective well-being, and their common history and culture, or simply their own self-interest. In order to preserve communal harmony and maintain the status quo, certain parents effectively opted to sacrifice their daughters. But while some kept quiet out of a misguided sense of loyalty, others, it seems, were not prepared to give up their lifestyle and status" (p. 217).

Pitcairners fought, and are probably still fighting, very hard against all charges, even with some defendants pleading guilty and testifying in court that this abuse occurred.

Although Marks pulls out the specter of Lord Of The Flies, by William Golding, I think there are many non-fiction examples of group-think linked with abuse: certain religious groups (Marks mentions some), gangs and their traditions, and atrocious abuse as a means of sowing terror (think Sudan). Clearly, the worldview of Pitcairn Island residents strayed from the conventional, from the norms of how a healthy community protects and nurtures its children, particularly girls, in a male-dominated society.

"The Pitcairn story makes us shiver. We recognize that hellish little universe, and we recognize ourselves. The island offers a glimpse of the darkness that lies within every one of us" (p. 284).

Here's what we know. Child abuse wasn't invented on Pitcairn Island. Horribly, it occurs everywhere. Marks argues that the uniquenesses of Pitcairn Island allowed this abuse to flourish. Her story, as a journalist, wasn't so much the abuse itself, but the vigorous defense of the perpetrators, and the lack of a support network around the victims. She saw a situation where the perpetrators called themselves the victims while the victims were labeled the perpetrators.

For a journalist, that is a story to follow.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The horror of what happened on Pitcairn is not done justice by the poor writing here 27 Nov 2009
By Suzanne Amara - Published on Amazon.com
Sometimes I think a book ends up getting reviewed more as a commentary on its content than as a piece of writing. I would give this book 5 stars if I were just making a statement about how horrifying all that happened to the women of Pitcairn over the years was. However, as a piece of writing and a testament to that horror, this book is deeply flawed.

My first issue---the length. The author covered the trial on Pitcairn---that was 6 weeks on the island. About a third of the book is about that time. She could have easily covered the history and aftermath in another section that length (better researching and writing would have taken up more space, but that didnt' exist here). The rest of the actual book is quite literally repeating stories already told, with pauses to again mention how awful it all way. Nothing new is learned or gained.

My second issue---the author let her social classism into her writing far too much. She obviously has no idea what it's like to live in a closed or small society. That certainly doesn't excuse ANYTHING the child abusers did, but she also seems to have total scorn for anyone who didn't put every once of their being into stopping what they suspected was happening. She seems to never have lived in a small town, to say nothing of a tiny island with literally no way to get off it. She also comments far more than is necessary on things like the clothing of the islanders---who showed up for court in a dirty shirt or a t-shirt. I wonder if it occured to her that with no reliable source of water or electricity, you might slightly lower your standards for clothing appearance. She seems disgusted that the islanders spend a lot of time watching DVDs, instead of in more high minded pursuits. All this muddies the message here.

My third issue---I think much of her anger is wrongly directed because she felt slighted on the island. I think somehow she thought everyone would be thrilled to have her there, and would be friendly and kind and welcoming. She mentions often when people wouldn't talk to her, or said mean things to her. She hits the nail on the head when she notes that journalists usually don't have to live right in the same area as those they are writing about. If they did, they might write a bit differently.

The fourth and biggest issue---by writing a book that so poorly written, she lost the chance to truly serve the women that were so abused. I nearly gave up on my reading several times. This is a story that cries out for a masterful piece of writing. Of course there will be bias, but a good reporter would have at least made an attempt to understand the accused as well as the victims, and I don't think she did either here. In particular, her hatred for Steve Christian shines through so strongly that even I felt a little sorry for him, and I couldn't be more sickened by what he did.

I hope another book, or several, gets written about the child abuse trials on Pitcairn, because this one is not the one to read.
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