Monday, June 27, 2005


I finished Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Now I have to read some non-novelized accounts of the mutiny to find out how much of it was true (was Fletcher Christian ever seen again? Was Roger Byam a real person? Was William Bligh really that much of a dick?). Sometimes it seems I will never get caught up on all the reading I want to do.

Now, be aware that I'm biased in that I love reading about wooden sailing ships (and frigates and sloops...), particularly naval ships, though I tend to read more history than novels and more American history than British, but this was a great book. Really, really fun. And I'm not the only one who thinks so - it was published in 1932 and is still in print. I got my copy for 25 cents at a used book fair, a version published in the 60's that's well worn and smells yellow, like an adventure story should.

The narrator is a midshipman named Roger Byam, recruited to sail with Captain Bligh to Tahiti to compile a dictionary of Tahitian for Sir Joseph Banks. The sail to Tahiti is hell, and the devil responsible is Captain Bligh. He's abusive, vindictive, and petty, too eager to order use of the cat, and too quick to assume the worst of his men. It's no surprise, then, that after a long stay in Tahiti that the crew is reluctant spend another year sailing with Bligh to get back to cold, rainy England. Master Fletcher Christian is the first to crack, and he leads the successful mutiny.

Byam never joins the mutiny; he tries to leave the ship with Bligh, but there's no room in the small boat the deposed captain is given. He, Christian, and a shipful of liberated sailors wander the islands of Melanesia, until Byam settles in Tahiti, still working on his dictionary.

This book was the best 25 cents I've spent.

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