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The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,940 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews
More than two centuries after Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against Lieutenant William Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty, the true story of this enthralling adventure has become obscured by the legend. Combining vivid characterization and deft storytelling, Caroline Alexander shatters the centuries-old myths surrounding this story. She ...more
Paperback, 491 pages
Published May 25th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published September 15th 2003)
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Kon-Tiki by Thor HeyerdahlIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickThe Perfect Storm by Sebastian JungerThe Bounty by Caroline AlexanderTwo Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Best Seafaring History books
4th out of 53 books — 21 voters
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26th out of 130 books — 54 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jill Hutchinson
Oct 25, 2014 Jill Hutchinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
This is an amazing book. We are familiar with the story of the Bounty, captained by William Bligh, and the mutiny, headed by Fletcher Christian but the story has morphed over the years into more of a myth. The author attempts to set the record straight but since there are so many factions for and against Bligh and Christian, that it is a matter of sorting through the conflicting stories and deciding on whose side you fall. And with that said, I can say that it is really not possible to place bla ...more
Mikey B.
Jun 15, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: exploration
What an epic true story! It has all the classic ingredients – conflict, romance, exploration of strange lands and survival in dire circumstances.

The true hero is Bligh. Ms Alexander brings out all the historical revisionism that has occurred since that era. We tend to look at these ships’ Captains (Bligh was actually a Lieutenant) as tyrants. Indeed they were – but in the context of the era it was “normal” to insult and lash your sailors – insubordination was simply not tolerated. The ship was n
...more
Lorien
Aug 10, 2010 Lorien rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited to continue my obsession with seafaring adventures and open boat journeys. This book, while well researched, gets so bogged down in the details of every person ever connected with any part of the story, that you never get a clear idea of what is going on. Perhaps if you were already familiar with the story of the Bounty (which I am not) and you really want to know extensive details like the biographies of the 12 Sea Captains who sat on the Court Martial of the mutineers, thi ...more
Terry Bonner
Nov 13, 2012 Terry Bonner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
" I picked up this book simply for some light bedtime reading and promptly lost a full night's sleep because I couldn't put it down. Alexander's painstakingly reconstructed narrative of the iconic mutiny is absolutely spellbinding.

One has to admire the stamina of any historian who pours through thousands of pages of two-hundred year old letters, transcripts of courts martial, popular accounts in contemporaneous circulation and standard historical books on the subject. This is an achievement whic
...more
John and Kris
Jul 28, 2009 John and Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I ever own a boat the name will be: Bounty’s Launch.

Alexander’s The Bounty is an excellent and thorough read about all that makes the Mutiny on The Bounty still intriguing today.

On the morning of April 28, 1789 Lieutenant William Bligh’s H.M.S. Bounty was taken in the South Pacific, near Tahiti, by a band of mutineers led by Master Mate, Fletcher Christian. Bligh, in just his night shirt, was forced into the small, 23-foot launch, weighed down with eighteen loyalists and enough provisions for
...more
Mom
Aug 31, 2009 Mom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
urely this exhaustingly-researched, enthralling and enthusiastically-written tome is the last word on the most famous of all seafaring mutinies, that of shipmate Fletcher Christian and against Lieutenant Bligh on the Bounty. More than 200 years have gone by since the ship left England after dreadful weather kept it harbored for months, on its mission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. The mutiny in Tahiti left the mutineers scattered about the paradisiacal islands and found ...more
Janellyn51
Apr 05, 2009 Janellyn51 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read in January, 2006
review: The Mutiny on the Bounty has always been one of my top 5 favorite books and I've read socialogical studies about Pitcairns Island and other odd bits and pieces. I suppose of the three films made, The Bounty, the last, is the closest to the actual relationship between Bligh and Christian. I don't know why no one has taken the story on to life on Pitcairn. For some reason it's Pitcairn that's always intrigued me the most. This book, is really interesting, I think. If
...more
Andrew
Aug 12, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bounty is a truly amazing work of scholarhip; Ms. Alexander seems to have read every scrap of information regarding the mutiny and the subsequent lives of all persons involved. She lays out the problems with the voyage, the petty dictates of a class conscious society, the trials of men at sea with nowhere to go to get away from those they dislike, and how the trivial becomes paramount due to this closeness. For all these reasons, the book should have five stars.

But...

After all the scholars
...more
Ralph
Mar 17, 2009 Ralph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself” ~Martin Luther

Warning: the following review contains historical facts that may be considered spoilers if you desire to read this book without previous knowledge of the events.

I love to read books about people and events that I know little to nothing about. I had certainly heard of Captain Bligh and the Mutiny on the Bounty, but that was the extent of my knowledge.
...more
Carol
My husband and I decided to listen to Caroline Alexander’s The Bounty after listening to Bligh’s daily log account of the infamous Mutiny on The H.M.S. Bounty. We were hoping to clear up some questions we had regarding Bligh and his character. If you’ve ever watched any of the movies that depict the mutiny, you can’t help but come away with a bad taste in your mouth for Bligh. He is portrayed as the villain and Fletcher Christian appears to be justified in his rebellion.

Alexander’s book goes in
...more
Jared Della Rocca
I don't enjoy sailing. My interest in history generally begins with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and proceeds forward. And yet, I have now read not one, but TWO books dealing with 18th-century British sailors (Captains Cook and Bligh). The book on Cook was a travel novel, taking the reader along the path of Captain Cook in both the historical and current sense. But The Bounty deals from a purely historical perspective, interweaving sailors' journals, letters, and even court martial transcripts to p ...more
Jennifer
Nov 21, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband and I listened to this book on our drive to and from Massachusetts. We both really enjoyed it, though I think it would be an easier book to read rather than to listen to.

For listening, the narrator was very good and fit the story. There were a couple times when it sounded like a completely different narrator started reading, but then the voice would evolve back to the one we were familiar with. That was very strange. Also, the first part of the book isn't chronological, which makes li
...more
Caroline
Dec 30, 2011 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-history
Like most people, I'd heard of the story of the mutiny on the i>Bounty, of Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian, and the colony on the Pitcairn Islands - but I never knew very much more. This was a wonderful read; I honestly could not put it down; and I felt I learned much more than just about the mutiny itself, about Tahiti, and navigation, and the history of the British Navy.

I'd always assumed that Bligh was a tyrant and Christian somewhat justified in rebelling against him, but the real st
...more
Ken
Mar 16, 2014 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an informative and interesting presentation of Bligh’s mission on the Bounty and the events which followed. The book lends particular focus on how the Haywood and Christian families “spun” the tale after the fact to make the mutineers seem more “noble” and Bligh more “evil”. As far as I can tell, it’s a straight-up, honest and well-researched account of what really happened.

However, it does seem to me that the book spends proportionally too much time on the court martial and Peter Haywoo
...more
Gavin
Apr 18, 2008 Gavin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Probably the most famous mutiny of all time. I live in the South Pacific, not too far from Bligh Passage, which obviously is named after the much maligned captain of the Bounty. What Alexander does is depict Bligh as a more humanitarian figure than he is usually depicted, claiming that he was given a bad press. This is probably true.

What I've known for years is that the mutiny occurred because of the Tahitian women. The mutineers loved the sultry Polynesian maidens they spent five months with be
...more
Brenda
Sep 24, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not someone who usually enjoys the type of history that lists fact after fact or overwhelms one with dates. I'm a character/narrative junky. This author managed to find the perfect balance between clearly presenting facts and moving the story forward, while at the same time giving a rich, nuanced analysis of the personalities and politics involved in the myth building that happened around the mutiny. And lovely little snippets of dry/wry commentary. I.E., when she noted that Fletcher Christ ...more
Eddie McCreary
Yet another nautical history book. I've known the general background of the Bounty and seen several Hollywood versions, but have never read an actual book about it.

Not surprising most of what I knew was wrong; Captain Bligh was really Lieutenant Bligh, Mr. Christian was his protege and had they sailed together before, while Bligh not have been the most pleasant of men, he wasn't that bad compare to his contemporaries and was a very skilled navigator. Most important we don't really know what the
...more
Frederick Bingham
The story of the mutiny on the British ship Bounty near Tahiti in 1789. It is the classic story of Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh, tropical paradise, breadfruit trees, etc. The story is told in tremendous detail, including discussion of the aftermath and the fates of all the participants in the affair. The story especially focuses on the story of Peter Hayward, an officer and protege of Bligh's who may or may not have participated in the mutiny. Hayward was captured in Tahiti and brought back ...more
Michael Foley
Very well researched and extremely thought provoking. The main issue is that the book opens up more questions than it settles disputes. The part of the book that I found most satisfying was in dealing with the celebrity status that Fletcher attains. When viewing things historically through the framework of the French Revolution, we see the rise of individualism and romanticism take root. Bligh represented the aristocratic age while Fletcher "championed" a new future of adventure. It didn't hurt ...more
Elizabeth Hatleli
Apr 07, 2015 Elizabeth Hatleli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fascinating book highlighting the importance of archives...


Using diaries, ship’s musters, public and private logs, private correspondence, lieutenants’ certificates, hospital records, invoices, seaman’s wills and the proceedings of the courts martial trial Columbia University trained classics professor and historian Caroline Alexander weaves a fascinating tale of late eighteenth century British naval life and sheds new insight into one of the most famous stories ever told of treachery on the hig

...more
Tracie
Aug 01, 2013 Tracie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was great for finding out the "rest of the story" about the mutiny on the ship called The Bounty. I found it a bit slow reading at times though and became bogged down in some of the endless details that were offered. Not sure I would recommend it to anyone unless you are a die hard ship story person. For an abbreviated version if you just want the facts - watch the 1980's movie "The Bounty" starring Mel Gibson. Accurate in it's presentation and it saves you from the boring details.
Cheryl Gatling
I recently read a news article about Pitcairn Island, which has a declining population, and is so eager to attract people, that it will give you free land, if you will just go and live there. That made me think that I might like to re-read Mutiny on the Bounty, which I read when I was young, and thoroughly enjoyed as a great adventure story. Then I saw this book at the library, and thought, why not read the history, and get all the facts.

I was glad I did. The facts are that Captain Bligh was not
...more
Josh
Sep 27, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and still think about it.

Caroline Alexander shows how contigent this bit of history was, how Fletcher Christian could have swallowed his pride that night. Instead he led a mutiny that led to many deaths, including his own, and the weird, sad history of Pitcairn Island.

''What caused the mutiny on the Bounty? The seductions of Tahiti, Bligh's harsh tongue -- perhaps. But more compellingly, a night of drinking and a proud man's pride, a low moment on one gray dawn, a momentary
...more
Tess McCarthy
Mar 07, 2015 Tess McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you want to get into the mind of main mutineer, Fletcher Christian, you won't. You will, however, see another sight of William Bligh who was a lowly Lieutenant on the HMS Bounty ill equipped with the right sailors, no Marines to keep order, and on the hunt for breadfruit.

It talks of Sir Joseph Banks who subsequently sent Bligh on another breadfruit expedition after he was on court martial for losing the Bounty to a mutineer who decided he was "in hell" for two weeks when he was really just h
...more
Chris
Feb 04, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The quality of the writing was inconsistent, and Alexander interjected way too much guessing disguised as "analysis."
Bev
Feb 26, 2015 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The audio version of this book was fabulously read by actor Michael York. He was fantastic at embellishing the voices of each of the colorful characters as they give their testimonies.

Caroline Alexander must have done tons of research to present a side of this now famous story. In contrast to the movies we are familiar with, Ms. Alexander portrays Bligh as a an exceptional sailor and commander who was besmirched by Fletcher Christian who came from a wealthy and powerful family. This book was de
...more
Walt
May 25, 2008 Walt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bounty
Well-written, but surprisingly inaccurate in several important events.
Denise Barney
Mar 13, 2016 Denise Barney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This gets 4 stars only because you have to really enjoy reading about life in the days if sail. Ms.Alexander stars with the mutiny itself, then painstakingly unravels the causes, looking especially at the often maligned Bligh and his relationship with Christian.

Sir Joseph Banks of the Royal Society urged the voyage to the Admiralty. The Admiralty made several fateful decisions, including not having a detail of Marines in board and delaying the sailing of the Bounty from England. The delay meant
...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
This book is incredibly well researched, and utilises the historical record brilliantly. Alexander paints a very sympathetic portrait of William Bligh as a man who's been demonised by history and the cinematic adaptations of the Bounty's story.

That said, there were times when this felt like it dealt more with the aftermath for two particular individuals than it did the mutiny itself. We get enormous amounts of detail about Bligh's career after the mutiny, and a decent chunk of the book focuses
...more
J.S.
Duty and a pile of coconuts

I was surprised while reading this book that no one I spoke with had ever heard of "the mutiny on the Bounty." In 1789, Lieutenant William Bligh sailed his ship, the Bounty, to the beautiful island of Tahiti. He'd been there before with Captain James Cook, but now his goal wasn't exploration but commerce: he was to obtain breadfruit plants to start plantations in the West Indies. Bligh was a conscientious captain who looked out for the health and welfare of his men, ev
...more
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Caroline Alexander has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, and National Geographic. She is the curator of "Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Expedition," an exhibition that opened at the American Museum of Natural History in March 1999. She lives on a farm in New Hampshire.
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