Blight, you are my prisoner!"" So said Fletcher Christian--and ""over 2500 major books,"" according to his...


FRAGILE PARADISE: Fletcher Christian of H.M.S. Bounty

Blight, you are my prisoner!"" So said Fletcher Christian--and ""over 2500 major books,"" according to his great-great-great-great-grandson Glynn Christian, have since been written on the Bounty mutiny and its aftermath. This one, presented as GC's embrace of his Tahitian/mutineer heritage (""my infatuation with nature""; ""my other, wilder ways""), takes the form of a new, all-out defense of Fletcher Christian--against Gavin Kennedy's 1978 Bligh, for one--and a plausible argument that, legends and rumors to the contrary, he did indeed die in the 1793 Pitcairn Island massacre. To anyone but a Bounty enthusiast, though, this is apt to seem much fuss about precious little. Thus, Christian family history is traced, from the Vikings onward, chiefly to demonstrate that Fletcher's patrimony was lost by two of his brothers--hence his decision to join the Navy and, most importantly, his need to borrow money from Captain Bligh during the Cape Town stopover (of which GC has found evidence in Bligh's papers). There might, then, have been an ""original quarrel"" between them! Much of the succeeding narrative, to the day of the mutiny, underscores Bligh's weak leadership and instability (his failure to punish recalcitrants, his overreaction to an islander misdeed), hence his loss of Christian's respect, and his personal abuse of Christian: we are not to think that it was the lure of Tahiti, just left, that prompted the mutiny: this was a personal rebellion, triggered by ""the manly requirement to defend himself."" There then follows a detailed account of the mutineers' South Seas mishaps (interesting re social and racial frictions on Pitcairn) and, back in England, of Bligh's apotheosization and downfall. Finally, GC sails to Tahiti and Pitcairn, to puzzle out the suvvival possibilities, and others. The GC persona is intrusive; the narrative is less than enthralling. There is, however, a considerable load of historical fact--from 18th-century shipboard diets to Tahitian sexual practices--and some fascination in the fervor with which the facts of this particular case are still pursued. (There will also be numerous photographs and, for an extra boost, simultaneous republication of the Bounty Trilogy.)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982