Review by Robert at Angus & Robertson:
Just when you think you know everything there is to know about the conflict of William Bligh and Fletcher Christian on the high seas, Peter FitzSimons effortlessly breathes new life into this often-told story.
Mutiny on the Bounty, an ambitious and thorough book, diligently covers the ill-fated voyage from its inception to the subsequent trials with a wealth of new details. Written like a kind of live news report, the story unfolds with tense drama that is vivid and gritty, putting the reader right on deck. This book is driven by dialogue based on the crew’s diaries, letters, and court depositions, giving a voice and face to lesser-known players like the mutineers, loyalists, and waverers.
Using documents previously unpublished, FitzSimons tells of the frank sexuality of the Tahitians and the powerful effect this had on all the Bounty’s ranks, setting the context for subsequent misunderstandings and violence. We learn more of the political factors surrounding the voyage, including the heavy hand of patron Sir Joseph Banks on the trip’s planning and on the later trials. Cameos by James Cook and Matthew Flinders also add flesh to a subplot of enthusiastic networking in the Georgian Admiralty, where class and connection are everything.
This famous mutiny is one of the greatest true tales: a conflict born of many slights and offences, both cultural and procedural, all leading to a perfect storm of regrettable actions.
With Mutiny on the Bounty, Peter FitzSimons brings colour and depth to this portrayal of a power play in the most epic of circumstances.
The mutiny on HMS Bounty, in the South Pacific on 28 April 1789, is one of history's truly great stories - a tale of human drama, intrigue and adventure of the highest order - and in the hands of Peter FitzSimons it comes to life as never before. Commissioned by the Royal Navy to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti and take them to the West Indies, the Bounty's crew found themselves in a tropical paradise. Five months later, they did not want to leave.
Under the leadership of Fletcher Christian most of the crew mutinied soon after sailing from Tahiti, setting Captain William Bligh and 18 loyal crewmen adrift in a small open boat. In one of history's great feats of seamanship, Bligh navigated this tiny vessel for 3618 nautical miles to Timor. Fletcher Christian and the mutineers sailed back to Tahiti, where most remained and were later tried for mutiny.
But Christian, along with eight fellow mutineers and some Tahitian men and women, sailed off into the unknown, eventually discovering the isolated Pitcairn Island - at the time not even marked on British maps - and settling there. This astonishing story is historical adventure at its very best, encompassing the mutiny, Bligh's monumental achievement in navigating to safety, and Fletcher Christian and the mutineers' own epic journey from the sensual paradise of Tahiti to the outpost of Pitcairn Island.
The mutineers' descendants live on Pitcairn to this day, amid swirling stories and rumours of past sexual transgressions and present-day repercussions.
Mutiny on the Bounty is a sprawling, dramatic tale of intrigue, bravery and sheer boldness, told with the accuracy of historical detail and total command of story that are Peter FitzSimons' trademarks.