Fletcher of the Bounty by Graeme Lay – 2017

FletcheroftheBountyI really enjoyed Lay’s James Cook trilogy, from the first installment which adores Cook, through to the final depiction of a man gone mad.  I picked up Fletcher of the Bounty expecting a combination of the two – adoring of Christian and a depiction of an insane Bligh – needless to say my history of the events comes from various movies!  Lay’s portrayal is much more complex, following Christian from a youth whose prospects are thwarted by the fall of his family, through to his failed attempts at creating a Pacific utopia.  And Bligh from a fair leader with an honorable history, through to an insecure man conscious of his humble origins; a lonely and isolated man.  At the beginning, I was a bit distracted by cousin John seemingly introducing Christian as his nephew, and Christian being offered a job where he will “mess as an officer” and then his causing a kafuffle because “you’re just a gunner, and gunners don’t eat with officers.”  But I was soon absorbed in the unfolding of the tale, and horrified by the choices made and intentions expressed on the basis of roaring hormones, and the consequential abuse of any exotic woman.  It really is an appalling tale of a far from noble enterprise.  And Fletcher, although feeling guilty over the business of slavery that underpins his voyage to the Pacific, is certainly not pure in many of his intentions.  And his reasons for mutiny are nothing to be proud of when looked at through the lens of today’s sensibilities.  The point is made that any success that the Pitcairn settlement enjoyed was totally due to the women taken to the island.  Fletcher of the Bounty is a tale of how a life can become something so different from the one imagined in youth or in one’s yearnings – perhaps it is intentional that Lay has a fictional encounter between Fletcher Christian and William Wordsworth when they were both youths – Wordsworth growing up to realise the mess we make of our potentially perfect worlds: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.”  This book is not a pleasant read, but it is an interesting one – and one that brings another chapter of our not too glowing history to life.

 

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