This is John Boyne's retelling of that history, and whilst he sticks to facts to a large extent, there are some fictional aspects. First of all his narrator is a fictional young lad of fourteen named John Jacob Turnstile. Without disclosing how John Jacob gets to be on the Bounty, suffice to say that he does as this story is after all about the Bounty. The actual Captain's servant was a boy called John Smith, but in Mr Boyne's version of events poor John Smith had a nasty accident and was replaced with our fictional John Jacob, generally referred to as Turnip. This is to some extent a coming of age story for John Jacob, but in some ways he was already old and experienced at a very young age.
Imagine Charles Dickens telling you the story of the Bounty through the voice of The Artful Dodger.
John Jacob Turnstile is fourteen and one of many boys living with the formidable Mr Lewis in Portsmouth, spending his days picking pockets and his nights in the upstairs rooms with the other pretty boys, doing things with wealthy men that give him nightmares. A last-second reprieve from the same French gentleman, Mr Zéla, sees him instead aboard the HMS Bounty just before it leaves, to serve as ship boy and servant to the captain, William Bligh. Nursing vague plans of escaping somewhere along the voyage - because Mr Lewis will be far from forgiving when he turns up in Portsmouth again - Turnstile settles into life on board the ship, a whole new experience for the lad. But Bligh and Fryer don't see the list for what it really is: a list of men the writer believed would stand against the captain in a mutiny. For that is exactly what happens, a mutiny on one of King George's ships, and one of the Bounty's launch's - a small boat merely twenty-three feet long - is put into the water with the captain and only eighteen loyal men inside, and one small locked box of food that would, under normal circumstances, barely last a day. Through it all, John Jacob Turnstile, the Captain's servant and loyal companion, narrates events from his own distinct and unique perspective, with his frank opinions and saucy cheek, creating an engaging and highly readable story out of one of the most famous and well-documented mutinies in British history. I can't make a comparison between John Boyne's interpretation of events and William Bligh's, though of course he used it as a source, but Boyne skilfully brought the voyage and the characters to life through the voice of John Jacob Turnstile. This is Boyne's success and achievement: using a character like Turnstile, who has no direct impact on events but is an eye-witness to them, is a useful device in a story like this, but the challenge is in making him an interesting character in his own right, a character who is more than a pair of watchful eyes and perked-up ears, a character you care about and want a bright future for. The other inconsistency was about Mr Samuel, the ship's clerk: when Turnstile first tells us the names of the men who join the captain in the launch, he includes Mr Samuel (page 337); he's mentioned again on page 405 as being with those loyal to the captain. Without destroying Turnstile's admiration for Captain Bligh, Boyne manages to clearly convey the captain's flaws, especially in telling the story of Captain Cook's death in Hawaii (as an Australian, we learn about Cook like Americans learn about Columbus; I'd always seen, in reenactments, and heard of his death as one by spears; here he is overwhelmed and stabbed). By the time we get Bligh's version of Captain Cook's death and the reasons behind it, which is not so subtle but still probably quite accurate for the era, we've already got a pretty good opinion of the man. Being unfamiliar with the story, it wasn't immediately apparent who - which officer or sailor, that is - was behind the mutiny, though once things started happening on the island it became clear.
This book took me forever to read because I did not want it to end! I took a long break from reading it to stretch out the story for me.
John Turnstile is informed that if he joins the crew of the Bounty, on her mission to Otaheite, better known as Tahiti, he will on his return be a free man. It of course comes as no surprise for me to tell you that a mutiny takes place and young Turnstile together with 18 crew members are set adrift in the Pacific ocean. It is not only a boys own adventure but a beautiful coming of age story as John Turnstile uses opportunity offered to turn himself from a worthless street urchin into a man of some standing.
Not only is the protagonist very likeable, but also has the crew's voyage been described in a very detailed and enthralling way. The author was capable of telling this story by brutally describing the sailor's deeds, while also captivating an intriguing atmosphere and creating vibrant, divisive characters.
In a few words this is what happened to the ill-fated ship: After a long voyage on the high seas and a short stay on a sexy Polynesian paradise, the crew revolted, a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian erupted, the breadfruit-laden Bounty was seized shortly after leaving Otaheite (Tahiti) in April 1789, and the captain, William Bligh, with his followers were set adrift in a boat to fight for their lives. In this novel, the real life John Smith, Captain Blighs steward, was replaced by John Jacob Turnstile, a fourteen year old street urchin who was given the choice of a year in the goal or taken service aboard the Bounty.
Prachtige roman over een jongen die na de zoveelste misstap (en niet door eigen keuze) op het marine schip de Bounty terecht komt als scheepsjongen.
John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist. His most recent publication is the novel 'The Heart's Invisible Furies', published in the UK in February 2017.