A 14-year-old boy, John Jacob Turnstile, has got into trouble with the police on one too many occasions and is on his way to prison when an offer is put to him – a ship has been refitted over the last few months and is about to set sail with an important mission. The boy who was expected to serve as the captain's personal valet has been injured and a replacement must be found immediately. The deal is struck and he finds himself onboard, meeting the captain, just as the ship sets sail. The ship is HMS Bounty, the captain is William Bligh, and their destination is Tahiti.
This wonderful adventure story is told in first person narrative by John Jacob Turnstile, a 14 year old boy, who picked the pocket of a gentleman browsing books in the market and soon finds himself facing a twelve month jail sentence. The gentleman offers Turnstile a choice of becoming a valet for the captain of a ship soon to sail rather than going to jail for a year.
The story follows Turnstile’s days on board the ship with his critical eye to everyone ‘above’ his rank, his insolent comments that border on insubordination, but a joy to the reader. While enduring his tough life on board the ship, Turnstile goes through a savage rite of passage on the Equator at the hands of the other seamen. Despite his previous life as a child prostitute and pickpocket under Mr. Lewis, who seems to be patterned after Fagen, he earns the trust and respect of Captain Bligh.
This book deals frankly with the sexual frustrations of sailors at sea, something the earlier versions of Mutiny on the Bounty and other sea faring tales have withheld. It is these frustrations which are at the heart of the mutiny by the sailors: why Fletcher Christian (portrayed as a pompous dandy) and eighteen others took the ship by force to return to Tahiti after enjoying the delights of the native women.
The descriptions of sailing the seas are expertly written along with the characterizations of those on board the Bounty. In this version, Captain Bligh is portrayed as a progressive commander unlike others who held a stricter standard of discipline, withholding flogging unless necessary and an expert chart and map-maker of his day. This latter skill is evident when he guides a 23-foot launch holding nineteen starving men (including Turnstile) through 48 days to the Dutch settlement at Timor.
Mr. Boyne has a smooth, enticing writing style that flows while providing excellent attention to detail to entertain the reader with new characterizations of the well known characters of this true tale. From the first page to the last the reader is captivated along for an adventure on the high seas. I found this book difficult to put down and read it over two days.
JOHN BOYNE was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and won two Irish Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the British Book Award and has recently been made into a Miramax feature film. Boyne's novels are published in over 40 languages. He lives in Dublin.