The story is well-known – on 28 April 1789 Fletcher Christian and his followers took control of the HMAV Bounty, disposing of Captain William Bligh and leaving him adrift in the ship’s launch. Many books and movies have covered the mutiny, but Graeme Lay explores the enigmatic character of Fletcher Christian in this well-written and well-researched novel, and the author has created a page-turning read that brings history to life. Fletcher of the Bounty is an enthralling saga, which grips from the opening page to the last. The author explores Fletcher’s early life and his decision to join the Royal Navy, even though there was no seafaring tradition in the Christian family. Then Graeme Lay shows how a friendship may have formed between Fletcher and Captain Bligh, before things went terribly wrong after leaving Tahiti, the men having to give up a life of ease in paradise and their Tahitian lovers. On the return journey, discipline goes out the window, morale is at an all-time low, and Fletcher is contemplating taking his own life before he decides to take over the ship instead.
After the mutiny, the men are reunited with their Tahitian women, and together with the mutineers eventually sail to remote Pitcairn Island to start a new society, a Utopia of freedom and equality. But their new paradise is soon shattered by violence as tensions between the settlers explode to breaking point, the conflict between the European mutineers and the Tahitian men proving to be deadly.
Fletcher of the Bounty is an excellent historical novel, a well-considered blend of fact and fiction. It’s an action adventure tale – especially some of the scenes on the high seas – and it is also a tender love story. I would highly recommend the Fletcher of the Bounty for its excellent characterisation, it’s heart-palpitating action, and its thoughtful examination of this famous mutiny.