MISTER CHRISTIAN by William Kinsolving


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Proceeding from the premise that Fletcher Christian, leader of the 1789 mutiny that wrested control of HMS Bounty from tyrannical Captain Bligh, did not subsequently perish on Pitcairn Island, Kinsolving (The Diplomat's Daughter, 1993, etc.) offers an immensely entertaining account of a Georgian/Regency picaro's amazing adventures. Escaping his South Seas refuge by canoe (at age 30) after a native uprising in 1793, Fletcher is picked up by a Dutch merchantman that's later sunk by a French privateer in the Netherlands Antilles. Taken prisoner aboard the pirate ship, he manages to kill the depraved captain, purloin his small pouch of large gems, and save a distressed damsel named Daphne Lewis from an unhappy fate. After spending an idyllic fortnight on a conveniently deserted Caribbean isle, Daphne and Fletcher fall deeply, lustily in love. The wealthy, widowed Daphne (who was on her way from Jamaica to England to marry an impoverished duke) is soon rescued, and Fletcher (still wanted by the British Admiralty) eventually makes it home as well. Although spumed by his family, he keeps the first of many trysts with Daphne. Fletcher is sustained by his abiding passion for her--and the proceeds from sales of the jewels he took from her captor. He serves under assumed names as an able-bodied seaman on British warships in epic battles from Camperdown (in 1797) to Trafalgar (1805). Between naval engagements, he finds time to give Daphne and her impotent peer a much-wanted male heir. Consumption takes Daphne from Fletcher in 1806, and his resultant insanity gets him committed to Bedlam. Five years later, the vengeful Bligh finds him in the madhouse, but the condemned Fletcher is reprieved at the eleventh hour by his own noble son. At the close, the fiddlefooted hero turns from the life of idle ease that could be his and heads back to sea. A grand to-the-ends-of-the-earth romp that, though merry and melancholic by turn, strikes just the right stoically mock-heroic tone throughout.

Pub Date: March 7th, 1996
ISBN: 1416599045
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster