Monday, November 09, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty

This adventure on the high seas (what is a high sea, anyway?) by Nordhoff and Hall recounts the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty. The book follows the experiences of Byam, a lowly midshipman: how he joins the boat, gets stuck with the mutineers, and eventually is falsely arrested as a mutineer. Oh, he also lives for four or five years in Tahiti.

I really like old school adventure stories (Treasure Island is among my top 3 favorite books), so I had pretty high hopes for this one. However, this book started out a little slow; I was all set to grant the book two and a half stars and move on, but then mutiny actually happened (almost a third of the way into the novel) and I really became engrossed. I don't think this is just because "Duh! A mutiny must be exciting..." because the mutiny itself is pretty brief. Perhaps Byam just really stood out as a compelling character during that one chapter, and I suddenly cared a lot about his future welfare. Watching Byam meet his Tahitian native wife and their subsequent courtship, and then following Byam as he is torn away from her to be clapped in irons for about two years, was quite moving.

Learning about the details of life at sea is always interesting because it sounds so bloody miserable that I can't believe anyone would want to become a sailor. Perhaps it is like joining the army today, but the mortality rate must have been way higher then, and the living conditions had to be worse. The sailors ate nothing but salted beef and yams for about two years. And then, when their main ship sank and they were castoff in small launches, they all had to survive on about six ounces of water and a bit of bread each day for two weeks. Yikes. Also, it took over a year and a half to sail from Tahiti back to England!

I ended up consuming Mutiny on the Bounty in a rather roundabout way. I always like going to the library to browse for about an hour, and come away with 13 books, only one of which I will actually consume. But being stymied on Library Day, I had to pick something from our personal library. This is probably a good thing because I have now decided to consume a bunch of books from our personal library before going back to the public library, since I am so proud of our collection. You'll hear more about those soon!


Abbie said...

I really liked the cover of this book. I agree, a sailor's life sounds like no fun.

Mom said...

I often compare my life to Ma Ingalls' life to feel lucky! (In fact I was doing that with Sarah just this morning.) It sounds like that comparison would work with the sailors about whom you read as well. I think The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is the only book I have ever read about the high seas.