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Mutiny: A Novel of the Bounty

Mutiny: A Novel of the Bounty

4.6 5
by John Boyne

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Fourteen-year-old pickpocket John Jacob Turnstile has just been caught red-handed 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


Fourteen-year-old pickpocket John Jacob Turnstile has just been caught red-handed 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.

Given the choice of prison or a life at sea, John soon finds himself on board, meeting the captain, just as the ship sets sail. The ship is the Bounty, the captain is William Bligh, and their destination is Tahiti. Their journey, however, will become one of the most infamous in naval history.

Mutiny is the first novel to explore all the events relating to the Bounty's voyage, from the long passage across the ocean to their adventures on the island of Tahiti and the subsequent forty-eight-day expedition toward Timor. This vivid retelling of the notorious mutiny is packed with humor, violence, and historical detail, while presenting an intriguingly different portrait of Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian than has ever been presented before.

Internationally bestselling author John Boyne has been praised as "one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers" by the Irish Examiner. Now, with Mutiny, he has created an eye-opening story of life---and death---at sea.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) revisits William Bligh's doomed expedition in this adequate seafaring historical. Captain's servant John Jacob Turnstile, a 14-year-old orphan and thief, avoids a prison sentence by accepting a position aboard Bligh's ship, the Bounty. The ship's mission to Tahiti is tumultuous, and once the ship reaches its destination, some crew members become enamored of the island women. On the return voyage, they stage a mutiny and turn the ship around, forcing Bligh and the sailors loyal to him onto a small boat with minimal provisions. Boyne's take on the story capitalizes less on the tension among the warring factions, focusing more heavily on Turnstile's coming-of-age, while Bligh wavers between an abrasive task master and a health nut with a sensitive side. The novel succeeds as a historical adventure, but it doesn't add much to the already bulging bulk of Bounty books. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Jenny Ingram
This novel about the fated voyage of the H.M.S. Bounty is told by John Jacob Turnstile, the fourteen-year-old servant to Captain William Bligh. After being arrested for stealing a pocket watch, Turnstile joins the Bounty expedition as an alternative to a jail sentence. An orphan affiliated with a shady establishment in Portsmouth, England, Turnstile has no experience of life at sea, but he learns quickly, relying on his street smarts and his enthusiasm for an honest lifestyle to make him successful in his new job. As the person with the most access to the captain, Turnstile observes Bligh's integrity and hard work, especially during the severest challenges of the voyage. Turnstile is surprised when, after a long stay on Tahiti, the mutiny takes place, and he and sixteen other crewmembers who support the captain leave the ship with him in a small launch, which they sail through the South Pacific for six weeks until finally landing on Java and sailing home to England. The novel is filled with adventure as well as interesting descriptions of life aboard ship. Turnstile quietly observes the character of the officers and crew, and he raises questions near the end of the story about how history will treat Captain Bligh and the mutiny. Boys interested in historical adventure stories will enjoy this book. Reviewer: Jenny Ingram
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

This riveting account set in 1789 is narrated by 14-year-old John Jacob Turnstile, Captain Bligh's fictitious servant. Arrested as a pickpocket, he is offered a choice of jail or ship duty. As Turnstile adjusts to life aboard ship, he develops respect and admiration for his master. The later infamous William Bligh is portrayed as a shrewd navigator and devoted husband and father whose moodiness and rigid adherence to duty, loyalty, and honor often antagonize his crew. After six months on idyllic Tahiti, second-in-command Fletcher Christian leads 23 crew members in a mutiny, forcing Bligh and 18 loyal crew members into a 23-foot launch with only a compass and meager rations. Incredibly, with only one fatality, Bligh, Turnstile, and their companions row more than 3600 miles to a Portuguese settlement on Timor. Nursed back to health, the surviving crew returns to England where their story captures public attention. Imbuing the story with facts drawn from Bligh's personal documents, legal transcripts of his court martial, English naval protocol, and nautical history, Boyne has created a masterful adventure. According to Turnstile's poignant narrative, Bligh is more conflicted than cruel; Christian, the chief mutineer, is more arrogant than charismatic. Turnstile's quick wit and lively descriptions mask his insecurity and traumatic memories of sexual abuse. Like the crew, however, he eventually finds "pleasure" with a Tahitian girl. Teens will be captivated by this high-seas adventure, the abundance of bawdy banter, the drama of shipboard relationships, the desperate voyage of Bligh and his loyal companions, and one boy's coming-of-age.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts,NC

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A Novel of the Bounty

By John Boyne

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 John Boyne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6558-3


THERE WAS ONCE A GENTLEMAN, a tall fellow with an air of superiority about him, who made it his business to come down to the marketplace in Portsmouth on the first Sunday of every month in order to replenish his library.

I knew him first on account of the carriage that his man drove him in. The darkest black you ever saw, it was, but speckled at the top with a row of silver stars, as if he had an interest in a world outside our own. He always spent the best part of a morning browsing through the bookstalls that were laid out in front of the shops or running his fingers along the spines of those on the shelves indoors, pulling some out to take a look at the words inside, passing others from hand to hand as he examined the binding. I swear he came close to sniffing the ink off the pages, he got so close to some of them. Some days he'd come away with boxes of books that had to be fitted on to the top of his carriage with a length of hemp-rope so they wouldn't fall off. Other times he'd be lucky if he found a single volume that interested him. But while he was finding a way to lighten his wallet through his purchases, I was looking for a way to lighten his pockets of his belongings, as was my trade back then. Or one of them anyway. I had some handkerchiefs off him from time to time and a girl I knew, Floss Mackey, would pick out the stitching in the monogram – MZ – for a farthing so that I might sell them on to a laundress for a penny, and she in turn would find a buyer for each one at a tidy profit that would keep her in gin and pickles. Another time, he placed his hat on a cart outside a haberdashery shop and I had it too and sold it on for a bag of marbles and a feather from a crow. I tried for his wallet on occasion but he kept it close, like gentlemen do, and when I saw it emerge to pay the bookseller I could tell he was a man who liked to keep his money about him and determined that one day it would be mine.

I mention him now, right here at the start of this narrative, in order to relate a piece of business that took place on one such Sunday market morning, when the air was uncommonly warm for a Christmas week and the streets were uncommonly quiet. It was to my disappointment that there were not more gentlemen and ladies making their purchases at that time as I had my eye on a special luncheon in two days' time to mark the Saviour's birth and was in need of the shillings to pay for it. But there he was, my particular gentleman, dressed in his finery and with a whiff of cologne about him, and me hovering in the background, waiting for the moment I might make my move. Usually it would have taken a charge of elephants through the market to distract him from his perusals, but on this December morning he took a notion to look in my direction and for a moment I thought he was on to me and I was done for, even though I had yet to commit the act of felony.

'Good morning, my boy,' said he, taking his spectaculars off and peering across at me, smiling a little too, acting the hoity-toit. 'It's a fine morning, isn't it?'

'If you like sun at Christmas time, which I don't,' said I, all bluff.

The gentleman thought about this for a moment and narrowed his eyes, cocking his head a little to the side as he looked me up and down. 'Well, there's an answer,' he said, sounding as if he was unsure whether he approved of it or not. 'You'd rather it was snowing, I expect? Boys generally do.'

'Boys maybe,' I replied, pulling myself up to my full height, which was nowhere near as tall as the gent but taller than some. 'Men don't.'

He smiled a little and examined me further. 'I do apologize,' said he, and I thought I heard a trace of an accent in there somewhere. French, maybe, although he disguised it well as was only right and proper. 'I didn't mean to insult you. You are clearly of a venerable age.'

'It's perfectly all right,' said I, offering him a small bow. I'd turned fourteen two days earlier, on the night of the Solstice, and had determined that I wasn't going to be spoken down to by anyone from then on.

'I've seen you here before, haven't I?' he asked me then, and I thought about walking away without an answer as I had neither the time nor the inclination for a conversation, but I held my position for now. If he was a Frenchie as I believed, then this was my place, not his. What with me being an Englishman, I mean.

'Like as not,' said I. 'I don't live so very far away.'

'And might I enquire as to whether I've discovered a fellow connoisseur of the arts?' he continued, and I frowned as I thought about it, picking at his words like the meat on a bone and shoving my tongue into the corner of my mouth to make it bulge out in the way that makes Jenny Dunston call me deformed and bound for the knackers' yard. There's a thing about gentlemen: they never use five words where fifty will do. 'A love of literature brings you here, I assume?' he asked then, and I thought to hell with this and was about to issue a curse on his head and turn on my heel in order to go to find another squirrel, when he let this enormous laugh out of him as if I was some sort of simpleton and raised the volume he was holding in my direction. 'You like books?' he said finally, bringing it down to brass tacks. 'You enjoy reading?'

'I do,' I admitted, thinking about it. 'Although I don't often have any books to read.'

'No, I'd imagine not,' he said quietly, taking a look at my clothes, up and down, and I suppose he could tell from the motley garments I was sporting that I was not blessed with an abundance of funds at that precise moment. 'But a young boy like you should always have access to books. They enrich the mind, you see. They ask questions of the universe and help us to understand our place in it a little better.'

I nodded and looked away. It wasn't my particular habit to get into conversations with gentlemen and I was damned if I was going to start on a morning like that.

'I only ask ...' he continued as if he was the Archbishop of Canterbury and was in the process of delivering a sermon to an audience of one but wasn't about to be put off by the lack of numbers in attendance. 'I only ask because I feel sure that I've seen you around here before. At the marketplace, I mean. And by the bookstalls in particular. And I happen to hold young readers in high regard. My own nephew, why, I can't get him to open a book to so much as the frontispiece.'

It was true that the bookstalls were my regular places of business, but only because that was a good location to trap a squirrel, that was all, for who else can afford to buy books, only them as have money? But his question, although not an accusation, gave me the resentments, so I thought I'd play along for a little while and see what a farce I could make of him.

'Well, I do love a good read,' said I then, rubbing my hands together and sounding for all the world like the well-schooled son of the Duke of Devonshire, all dickied up in his Sunday best, clean ears and polished dentals. 'Oh, yes, I do indeed. In fact, I have a mind to visit China myself one day, if I can afford the time away from my present responsibilities.'

'China?' asked the gentleman then, staring at me as if I had twenty heads. 'I beg your pardon, did you say China?'

'I most certainly did,' I replied, offering him a slight bow, imagining for a moment that maybe he would take me on as his lad and keep me in finery if he thought me educated; a change in circumstances, of course, but perhaps not a disagreeable one.

He continued to stare and I fancied that I might have got this wrong somehow, for he appeared to be entirely confused by what I had said. Truth to tell, Mr Lewis – him as took care of me in those early years and in whose establishment I had lodged for as long as I could recall – had only given me two books to read in my life and they both happened to have their stories set in that distant land. The first concerned a man who had sailed there on a rusty old tub, only to be set a multitude of tasks by the emperor himself before being allowed to marry his daughter. The second was a saucy tale with pictures in it and Mr Lewis would show it to me from time to time and ask me whether it gave me the motions.

'In fact, sir,' said I then, stepping towards him and glancing at his pockets to see whether there might be there a stray handkerchief or two springing out, seeking liberation and a new owner. 'If I may be so bold as to say so, I have a fancy to become a book-writer myself when I'm of age.'

'A book-writer,' he said, laughing, and I stopped where I was, my face like granite. Gentlemen like him, that's how they all behave. They might seem friendly when they talk to you but just you try to express a desire to make something better of yourself, maybe to be a gentleman yourself one day, and they take you for a fool.

'I apologize,' he said then, observing the disapproving look on my face. 'I wasn't making jest, I assure you. If anything, I applaud your ambition. You took me by surprise, that's all. A book-writer,' he repeated now when I said nothing, neither accepting nor rejecting his apology. 'Well, I wish you well with it, Master —?'

'Turnstile, sir,' said I, bowing a little again out of habit – and one that I was trying to break, I might add, for my back didn't need the exercise any more than gentlemen needed the adulation. 'John Jacob Turnstile.'

'Then, I wish you well with it, Master John Jacob Turnstile,' said he in what I suppose was something approaching a pleasant voice. 'For the arts are an admirable pursuit for any young man intent on bettering himself. In fact, I devote my own life to their study and support. I don't mind admitting that I've been a bibliophile from the cradle and it has enriched my life and provided my evenings with the most glorious companionship. The world needs good story-tellers and perhaps you will be one if you pursue your aims. You are familiar with your letters?' he asked me, turning his head to the side a little like a schoolteacher awaiting response.

'A, B, C,' said I in as posh a voice as I could muster. 'Followed by their compatriots D through to Z.'

'And you write with a fair hand?'

'Him as looks after me said my lettering recalls his own mother's and she were a wet-nurse.'

'Then, I suggest you acquire as much paper and ink as you can afford, young man,' said the gentleman. 'And take to it at once, for it is a slow art and requires much concentration and revision. You hope to make your fortune from it, of course?'

'I do, sir,' said I ... and then the strangest thing! I found that in my head I was no longer making a farce of him at all but was thinking what a fine thing that would indeed be. For I had enjoyed the stories I had read of China and I did spend most of my time by the bookstalls in the marketplace when everyone knew that the squirrels ran wilder around the fabric shops and the public houses.

The gentleman looked to be finished with me now and replaced his spectaculars on his nose, but before he turned away I made bold enough to ask him a question.

'Sir,' said I, the nerves coming out in my voice now, which I tried to control by deepening it. 'Sir, if I may?'

'Yes?' he asked.

'If I were to be a book-writer,' said I, choosing my words carefully because I wanted a sensible answer from him, 'if I were to try such a thing, and knowing that my letters are learned and my hand is fair, where would I begin exactly?'

The gentleman laughed a little and shrugged his shoulders. 'Well, I've never had the creative touch myself, I admit it,' he replied finally. 'I'm more of a patron than an artist. But if I was to tell a story, I suppose I should try to locate the very first instance, that singular point in my tale, that set the whole business in motion. I would find that moment and begin my narrative from there.'

He nodded then, dismissing me at last, and turned back to his perusals, leaving me to my cogitations.

The very first instance. The moment that set the whole business in motion.

I mention this now and here because the moment that set my business in motion was that very meeting two mornings before Christmas Day with the French gentleman, without which I might never have known either the bright or dark days that were to follow. Indeed, had he not been there that morning in Portsmouth, and had he not allowed his pocket-watch to rest off its fob and peep too temptingly from his greatcoat, then I might never have stepped forward and transferred it from the luxurious warmth of his lining to the cold comfort of my own. And it is unlikely that I would have walked carefully away from him in the manner in which I had been trained, whistling a simple melody to illustrate the casual air of a fellow without a care in the world going about his honest business. And I most certainly would never have made my way to the entrance of the marketplace, satisfied with the knowledge that a morning's money had already been earned, Mr Lewis would be paid, and a Christmas dinner would surely be mine two days hence.

And had I never done that, I would have absolutely been denied the pleasure of hearing the piercing sound of a blue's whistle and seeing the sight of a crowd turning towards me with angry eyes and ready limbs, nor felt the grinding of my head as it met the cobbles beneath when some great lummox of a do-gooder jumped atop me and set me off my pins and on to the flat of the ground.

None of this might have happened and I might have never had a story to tell.

But it did. And I do. And here it is.


WHISKED AWAY, I WAS! WHISKED like an egg and beaten just as soundly. These are the moments when your life's not your own, when others grab you and take you and force you to go where you've no business going. And I should know, having suffered more than my fair share of such moments in fourteen years. But once that whistle is heard and the crowd around you turn in your direction and focus their nasty eyes on you, ready to accuse, try and judge, why, you might as well get down on your knees and pray to disappear into thin air as hope to escape without a bloodied nose or a blackened eye.

'Hold off there!' came a cry from outside the scrum, but little did I know who it was, covered as I was by the weight of four separate traders and a simpleton woman, who'd placed herself atop the rabble and was screeching with laughter and clapping her hands together as if there had been no better sport all year long. 'Hold off there! Mind, or the boy will be crushed!'

That was a rare thing to hear, a fellow taking the side of a young villain like myself, and I resolved to pass a nod of appreciation to the utterer of the lines if ever I found myself blinking in the daylight again. Knowing what indignities might be on the horizon, however, I was content to pass a few idle moments stretched out on the cobbles, the peel of an orange pressed against my nostrils, the core of a rotten apple settled by my lips, and a bloody great arse making itself friendly with my right ear.

Soon enough, however, a chink of brightness appeared through the mess of bodies above me and up they stood one by one, the weight gradually decreasing atop me, and when him with the bloody great arse took himself off my head I lay heavily on the ground for a moment longer, looking up as I tried to assess my options, only to see the hand of a blue reaching down and grabbing me, without courtesy, by the lapels.

'Let's have you up now, lad,' said he, dragging me to my feet, and to my shame I stumbled a little as I recovered my balance and the people watching made a farce of me for it.

'He's drunk,' cried one, which was a slander as I never take a drink before lunchtime.

'A young thief, is it?' asks the blue, ignoring whoever had offered the lie.

'There was a young thief,' said I, trying to brush myself down and wondering how far I'd get if he was to lose his grip for a moment and I was to make a run for it. 'Tried to make off with the gentleman's pocket-watch, he did, and only for I nabbed him and called for the blues he'd have had it too. A hero is what I am, only this bloody great mess leapt on me and shoddy well nearly killed me. The thief,' I added, pointing in a direction that made everyone turn their heads for a moment before looking back at me, 'ran yonder.'

I looked around, trying to gauge the reaction of the crowd, knowing full well that they were not stupid enough to be taken in by such a lie. But I was trying to think on my feet and this is what I came up with on the spur of the moment.

'An Irish fella, he was,' I added then, for the Irish were hated in Portsmouth on account of their dirty ways and their filthy manners and the habit they had of procreating with their sisters and so were easy to blame for anything that went on outside the straight and legal. 'Babbling away in a language I didn't understand, he was, and him with the ginger hair and the big buggy eyes as well.'


Excerpted from Mutiny by John Boyne. Copyright © 2008 John Boyne. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Boyne is the author of Crippen, The Thief of Time, Next of Kin, and the New York Times and internationally bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Boyne won two Irish Book Awards (the People's Choice and the Children's) for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which has recently been made into a Miramax feature film, and his novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives with his partner in Dublin.

John Boyne is the author of Crippen, The Thief of Time, Next of Kin, and the New York Times and internationally bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Boyne won two Irish Book Awards (the People’s Choice and the Children’s) for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which has recently been made into a Miramax feature film, and his novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. Ireland's Sunday Business Post named him one of the forty people under forty in Ireland "likely to be the movers and shakers who will define the country's culture, politics, style and economics in 2005 and beyond." Crippen was nominated for the Sunday Independent Hughes&Hughes Irish Novel of the Year Award. He lives with his partner in Dublin.

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Mutiny: A Novel of the Bounty 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
tantrUm More than 1 year ago
I had never given much thought to reading a book about seafaring, mutiny or anything else relating. Although, I must say after reading "Mutiny on the Bounty" by John Boyne, I'm not sure I'll be thinking about much else for awhile. Narrated by a 14 year-old, John Jacob Turnstile, erstwhile thief and bound to be captain's servant-lad, the history of the HMS Bounty and the mutiny that later took place comes alive with a cheeky, and introspective storytelling approach. I found this book overwhelmed me with emotion as one chapter I'd be laughing out loud and the next, kept in awe and suspense over what was to transpire next (despite knowing the eventual outcome.) However, seeing as there are two sides to every story, this one recounts one loyal to the shamed Captain Bligh. I feel this book was so well-written that I will most definitely be plucking more books by John Boyne from my local libraries and book stores. I can't be surprised considering he is also the author of "The Boy In The Striped Pajamas", which was eventually made into an award winning movie. The topic of this book has also awoken a personal desire to discover more about that fateful voyage aboard HMS The Bounty, so we'll hope to see more reviews and see how they compare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great writing, wonderful character development, remarkable story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend. This is the third book i have read by this author and look forward to reading more of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago