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4.5 out of 5 stars26
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2003
For an event that has been so thoroughly treated in print and on film (even on stage and in verse!) it is hard to imagine that there is room for another book on the topic. But this is it. Though not as lavishly produced as her excellent "Endurance", Alexander's latest book brings a fresh new perspective to the Bounty story and is not only an essential addition to any Bounty library, but is perhaps also the best first book on the topic.
What distinguishes this book is its exploration of the social and cultural web relationships in England that were ultimately responsible for shaping how we see events that occurred far away in what was then literally the end of the world with only a few surviving witnesses -- all of whom had vital interests in how those events were interpreted. Alexander's extensive use of primary sources brings authenticity and immediacy to the story, and here careful avoidance of trying to play detective engages the reader: she lays out quite a bit of evidence and we are left to puzzle out what it means. This is refreshing, as is her through coverage of not only the events on the bounty, but the evolution of the mutineer's settlement on Pitcairn, the voyage of the Pandora, the court marshal proceedings, and the ultimate fates off the entire Bounty crew.
Only one minor complaint, which is really not unique to this book, but ultimately makes it much harder to read than it ought to be: because of the tremendous expanse of space and time covered by the events of the Bounty saga, and especially because of the extensive treatment of the web of players, relations, patrons, and other interested parties in the mutiny story, this book could have benefited greatly from more and better maps (there are only three and these are sparsely labeled and mostly decorative) and from some tables (the closest one comes is a simple crew manifest) and charts depicting the social networks.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2007
The bestselling author of The Endurance reveals the startling truth behind the legend of the Mutiny on the Bounty, the most famous sea story of all time. More than two centuries have passed since Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lt. Bligh on a small armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend. Caroline Alexander focuses on the court martial of the ten mutineers captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in Portsmouth. Each figure emerges as a richly drawn character caught up in a drama that may well end on the gallows. With enormous scholarship and exquisitely drawn characters, the whole book is a hard to put down read. I was particularly enthralled in the account of Bligh's superb seamanship when he sails his small band of survivors on the long perilous journey to the East Indies. Written with great detail you can literally step into the shoes of the central characters of this true descriptive account of a classic seafaring adventure.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 February 2005
This is a tale of exploration, adventure and mutiny on board the navy cutter Bounty, commanded by Lieutenant Bligh (for he was only nominally a captain) and under orders to sail to Tahiti and thence to transport indigenous breadfruit plants from that south Pacific island 'paradise' to the plantations of the West Indies via the channel between New Holland (Australia) and New Guinea (Papua New Guinea) which they were to explore and chart for the Admiralty as the true objective.
But the captain is unceremoniously relieved of his command and cast adrift in the ship's launch with a handful of loyalists to a certain death on the high seas (or so the mutineers believed) when things turn nasty not far from Tahiti. But, the captain and his band of fellows makes his way to a Dutch trading post-cum-settlement in Timor where they are received honourably and given safe passage to Batavia, Java, the principal trading station in the Dutch East Indies. After the mutiny one faction on board the Bounty is returned to Tahiti where they settle. The remainder, including Fletcher Christian, eventually wash up in Pitcairn where the survivors were found decades later (a story in itself).
The first seeds of rebellion were sown nine months from port, and six months previously, in Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) when Bligh ticked off his carpenter - not the first of his officers to be lashed by his tongue during the voyage - William Purcell during a "wooding" expedition on shore. Apparently his billets of timber were "too long" and he responded "insolently" to Bligh's criticisms (the captain should have left well alone if you ask me) ... But Bligh is generally bad tempered and the mutiny is eventually precipitated one night after Bligh harangues his officers about the theft of coconuts and calls them "dogs", "scoundrels" and "villains".
Alexander takes us effortlessly from the south seas, via provincial England and its intrigues and intricate web of family connections which binds many of the protagonists in this saga, to the court-martial aboard the HMS Duke in Portsmouth Harbour where the mutineers apprehended at Tahiti are tried for their lives. There follows probably one of the best and most lucid courtroom dramas that has appeared anywhere in print. Alexander writes beautifully and substantiates her claims and hypotheses quoting from primary sources such as the captain's log and various other contemporary memoirs and diaries written by the mutineers, their families and other contemporaries with a connection to the story.
This book is so much more than just the Bounty and the mutiny; it's an evocative look at the ordinary life of a seafarer of the day, and a history of that era of exploration and adventure when Britain's navy was emerging to rule the waves and establish the first outposts of what would become a great empire.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2004
I ran out of books on holiday and this was the only one left.I had just read the hottest book of the summer 'The Da Vinci Code' and the latest Frederick Forsythe. I already knew the story of The Bounty and so I was prepared for a rather dry historical narrative. I was amazed.
This is simply one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. Superbly well crafted, it reads like a top quality novel. Caroline Alexander carefully unfolds the drama of the Bounty, the open-boat journey that turned Bligh into a national hero and the subsequent investigations, the recapture of the mutineers and the court martials. Her narrative is packed with well researched facts ,rich in detail,that bring the story to life. The personal story of each mutineer is revealed to explain some of the rather unexpected verdicts. This is a masterpiece of scholarly research.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2010
If you want to know what really happened on the Bounty and Bligh's real character - rather than the Hollywood myth - then this book is essential reading.

Hollywood (and earlier accounts) portray Bligh as a mean and vicious brute who cared nothing for his men; the truth is very, very different. This is a readable but detailed historical account of what happened before, during and after the mutiny. There is plenty of background so that you can clearly understand what happened and how the myth came to be born. If you're looking for a rip-roaring yarn (as one reveiwer clearly was) then buy a novel, this is an education.

Bligh was a truly remarkable seaman and well ahead of his time in terms of his attitude to the welfare of the men under his command, some of it no doubt picked up during his time as Captain Cook's navigator.

I agree with the reviewer who said more maps would be helpful and would add that more specific references to dates would also help (perhaps in the form of margin notes). Alexander jumps to and fro in the timescale, which is fine but you do (or at least I did) sometimes lose track of which year you're in. Nonetheless, it is a superb book! One that I have read twice now and will doubtless read again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Like most people, I'd heard of the story of the mutiny on the i>Bounty, of Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian, and the colony on the Pitcairn Islands - but I never knew very much more. This was a wonderful read; I honestly could not put it down; and I felt I learned much more than just about the mutiny itself, about Tahiti, and navigation, and the history of the British Navy.

I'd always assumed that Bligh was a tyrant and Christian somewhat justified in rebelling against him, but the real story seems to be quite different. I finished this book feeling a great amount of sympathy and respect for Bligh: he seems to have genuinely had the best interests of his crew at heart, and they were treated no worse aboard the Bounty than they would have been aboard any of other Navy ship, indeed probably better. The complains and accusations leveled against Bligh seem pitiful and lacking in substance.

Indeed, that would be my one criticism of this book, although it's perhaps an unfair one to level at the author. There is never any real attempt to analyse just why the sailors rebelled, why Christian led the mutiny against Bligh. But then Christian's tale was never told, his side of the story never revealed, so we'll always be left to wonder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2012
Having enjoyed reading Caroline Alexander's earlier superb book ,'Endurance' I was keen to read 'The Bounty'.

This book is honourable in it's attempt to tell the true story of what happened concerning the events on The Bounty and, in my opinion, it succeeds in it's aim.It is detailed and comprehensive (being 410 pages + in length) yet easy to read and digest.

I was interested to read about the sequence of events (in the form of earlier, biased writings ,the Hollywood film etc )that fuelled the myth that Fletcher Christian was a hero(who had been badly wronged) and the lies that Lieutenant Bligh was a brutish tyrant.

There are glossy pages of illustrations,paintings and old photographs (colour and B/W)of people,places and items of interest to the story .I particularly enjoyed looking at the pictures of the Isle Of Man ( one from 1795 and the other from 1804).

The author has succeeded in giving us a fine ,historical account that hopefully will go some way to putting a seriously untruthful (previously promoted) account right and I say that she should be commended for doing so !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2010
This is an excellent book which clearly and logically goes through the evidence of this well know story, and takes the reader easily to a position of understanding what happened. Well written and an easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2013
This is a gem of a read for anybody who remembers the Bounty's movie. William Bligh gets justice thanks to a well researched book that offers real insight on how things must have really unfolded. Good research also on people, their backgrounds and motivations. The Bounty will guide the reader on what it was like to be a seaman in the XVIII century in the British navy. Superb!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2010
This is a densely researched and balanced account of the Bounty mutiny which puts to bed the myth that the demon captain was solely to blame. Many chips on many shoulders conspired to cloud the truth if there was one. Sequester a large number of ambitious egos for years and a mutiny was inevitable. How and why is clearly explained in this book.
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