Friday, April 16, 2010

Bounty Trilogy

Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, Pitcairn's Island published in the early 1930's by by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

The trilogy, based on a true story, is a fictionalized account of the confrontation between William Bligh and Fletcher Christian which culminated in a mutiny on the high seas aboard British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty in 1789, and its aftermath for these two men.  In the flow of these books villain becomes hero and hero becomes villain.

The keystone to this three part saga is Mutiny on the Bounty, narrated by a Midshipmen aboard the Bounty.  After sailing from England to Tahiti on a scientific expedition to collect breadfruit plants in the hopes of introducing them as a new food source in the West Indies colonies, the crew of the Bounty become enamored with the warm weather and easy way of life among the natives on the island.  Living ashore with the Polynesians for several months, the crew, newly tattooed in the style of the Tahitians, begrudgingly set sail for the West Indies, leaving romantic relationships in their wake.  The novelist contrast the beauty of the South Pacific islands with the harshness of life at sea in the 18th century.  Mutiny, romance, injustice, duty verses desire, set adrift at sea, running from authorities, attempting to start a new life -- all transpire in this first novel.

Most have seen at least one of Hollywood's renditions of this story, but the  cinema is unable to provide the depth the written word can, nor the detail the story deserves.  Does Bligh misuse his power as Ship's Captain, can Christian justify this mutinous actions as an act of romantic necessity, these are questions the reader must answer.

Men Against the Sea is the story of William Bligh and his 18 men that are marooned on the ship's 23-foot open launch and set adrift. Their fight for survival on the high seas as they navigate through over 3,600 miles of open water is detailed by the narrator in a most compelling way.  I list Men Against the Sea as one of my all-time favorite adventure books; it is short enough to be read in a single sitting.

The final piece to the trilogy is Pitcairn’s Island, the story of Fletcher Christian and his mutineers as they are joined by their Tahitian wives and other Polynesians and flee to an uncharted island in the South Pacific to live out their lives in seclusion.  The worst of human nature materializes as they realize they are trapped on the island with no chance of escape; greed, jealously, paranoia all takes a toll on the small band of inhabitants. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Andy Andrews inspirational books

The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success - Andy Andrews
“Like a serpent easing up his spine and wrapping itself around his throat, it wasn’t a quick, devastating attack, but a slow, gripping realization that life, as he knew it, was over.  He was forty-six years old.  He had no job.  He had no money.  He had no purpose.”  

Driving to nowhere in a patched up used car after losing his part-time job loading trucks at a hardware store, David Ponder stops and attempts to pray.  With what he considers no result from his prayer, he starts to drive again with the thought of suicide in his mind, culminating in a head-on collision with a tree by the roadside.

Though a half-dozen years older than Ponder, the protagonist of Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift, I had instant empathy with Ponder and his predicament, having recently closed my business of twenty plus years due to the recession and taking an hourly position at a local factory to put food on the table.  I thought to myself – that could be me he is describing.

In a coma, Ponder visits seven historical figures that each impart a life lesson to him.  He titles these lessons ‘Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success.’  Readers may find different elements that hit-home.  My personal epiphanies while reading the book were “choose to be happy,” and “forgive yourself and others.”  A close friend keyed in on “have a decided heart.”  According to your current life situation, different points discussed by these historic figures may prove influential in guiding you in your attempt to overcome whatever obstacle may currently lie in your life’s path.

This thought provoking read will give you pause for inter reflection. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Charles Frazier follows up the success of Cold Mountain with another offering set in the mountains of North Carolina - Thirteen Moons.  Frazier continues to write about a region he has much familiarity, having been born in the scenic mountain town of Ashville, and schooled at nearby Appalachian State University, in Booneville.

Will,  the protagonist of Thirteen Moons, is a twelve-year-old sold by his parents into indentured servitude and required to manage a trading post at the edge of the Cherokee Nation.  Overtime he is adopted by a Cherokee chief; as an adult he fights for the rights of a small group of Cherokee and mixed-bloods who remain after the Indians were forced to relocate to Oklahoma Territory in the 1830's during Andrew Jackson's presidency.  

There is an active love story between Will and a mixed-blood named Claire embedded in the novel.  The romance is laced throughout the story, tying together the decades the book spans.  Here lies the Gordian Knot of the tale, winning and keeping Claire's love.

Though the author has a disclaimer in the book to the contrary, the novel seems to be based on William Holland Thomas, the man who helped gain citizenship and thus the right to remain in the Carolinas for the Indians that remained behind in the Smokey Mountains after the forced removal.  This group that stayed became the nucleus of what is now known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Fraizer's strength as a story teller is his ability to paint vivid scenes. His descriptions of people, places and events jump off the page. His words bring to life the smell of sweat on a hard ridden horse as well as the taste of a kiss; he pulls the reader into the moment with his descriptions, whether it is the beauty of a misty sunrise on a mountain top or the seediness of a hunting cabin poker game, Frazier captures the scene. 

I highly recommend this offering as historical fiction for its adventure, romance and Frazier's abilities as a wordsmith.