Like most people I can recall many times when I would stay up late in bed as a child reading a book by torchlight under the blankets. Escaping to foreign lands between the pages there was, at the time, an absolute need to read just one more page. Whilst I no longer need to read under my blankets, that feeling of unabated joy was something akin to what I felt when reading Nordhoff and Hall's historical novel of the most infamous of mutinies.
Set in the late 18th century, there's probably very few people who haven't heard of this famous story based around true events. Written as a first-person narrative from the perspective of mid-shipman Roger Byam, the story begins with the HMS Bounty's 10 month journey from Spithead in the United Kingdom to Tahiti, some 27,000 miles distant, and from where the ship is to source breadfruit plants to transport to the West Indies.
Captained by the tyrannical Bligh, we are introduced to the many and varied characters that are on board the Bounty including Old Bacchus the ship's surgeon and the ship's acting Lieutenant, Christian Fletcher. Not wanting to go overboard on the nautical references, suffice to say that the journey is told with such gusto that you're swept away and very much part of the crew by the time the ship reaches Mehetia (part of the Windward Islands in French Polynesia).
It is from here that they finally make sight of that most beautiful of islands, Tahiti, about whom, it is said, Captain Cook loved only next to England. Their 5 month sojourn paints as wonderful a picture of this idyllic time as can only be imagined and which is made even more special in the knowledge of tumultuous events that are to come.
Not being a big reader of the classics, I was somewhat reluctant going into this book which was written in 1932. Thinking that the writing might be either staid and/or dated, I found it was neither and rather the story was a swashbuckling affair full of suspense and adventure that forced me to read just one more page causing it to be devoured in three days. In this case it really was a case of a classic being a classic for all the right reasons and one which has more than endured the passage of time.
Mutiny on the Bounty is a must read for lovers of historical novels, south sea adventures and ripping good yarns. With two follow up novels awaiting my reading pleasure entitled Men Against the Sea and Pitcairn's Island, that all combined make up The Bounty Trilogy, I feel it might be worthwhile checking the torch batteries, just for old time's sake.
5 stars out of 5
Credit: Banner photo by Magic Madzik