Mutiny: A Novel of the Bounty
Fourteen-year-old John Jacob Turnstile enters the Royal Navy in 1787 in the same way as many other 18th-century lower-class English citizens, given the choice between His Majesty’s service and imprisonment. Turnstile is a last-minute replacement aboard the Bounty, as cabin boy to Captain, or actually Lieutenant, Bligh. It is through the young man’s eyes that we witness the journey to Tahiti, the disaffection of the crew of the Bounty, the mutiny, and the incredible over-four-thousand-mile passage of Bligh and those loyal to the king in one of the Bounty’s longboats to the Dutch colony of Timor (present-day Indonesia).
John Boyne has created a brilliant frame for his excellent retelling of the mutiny on the Bounty in the story of his young protagonist. Turnstile experiences kindness from Captain Bligh, and tolerance at best and violence and ill-usage at worst from his crew. But the young man, in his straightforward way—he is nothing of an innocent, but a victim of the streets of Portsmouth—also sees Bligh’s shortcomings: he is not a good manager of men. Though the outcome of the tale is well known, there is still a sense of dread as the slights, both perceived and real, mount and as the desires of Turnstile, Captain Bligh, Mr. Christian, and the men of the Bounty clash with the dictates of the Royal Navy and the English class system. Humorous in many parts and a thoroughly well-told tale, Mutiny works as an adventure and coming-of-age story, an historical account, and as an examination of larger issues of duty, loyalty, and decency.