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The Best Bounty Book Available
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.