I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
John Jacob Turnstile earns his living on the streets of Portsmouth as a petty thief. He has no real life, no real friends, employed in the services of Mr Lewis and used periodically to feed the sexual desires of propertied gentlemen. When the theft of a pocket watch leads to the arrest of young Master Turnstile it seems he is destined to spend a year incarcerated until an unexpected opportunity results in a change of fortune. 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. On the Bounty he is of little importance his main role attending to the whims and desires of none other than Captain William Bligh.
What follows is a rollicking adventure as we sail the high seas in the company of a motley crew including the infamous Christian Fletcher. 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. Every page of John Boyne's extraordinary novel bristles with the taste and feel of what it was like to sail the high seas at the end of the 18th century. The crew faces the constant battering of inclement weather, the fear of pillaging pirates, and the threat of Scurvy, the disease of discovery, which ravaged both body and mind, and was caused by chronic vitamin C deficiency, brought on by lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. In the second part of the book when the mutiny takes places our survivors, under the remarkable leadership of Bligh, cling to life on a minuscule diet in the hope that they can replenish and refuel at the numerous Polynesian islands in the vicinity of Tahiti. This in turn leads to further turmoil when hostile inhabitants seem content on killing our brave sailors and cannibalizing their remains.
From the opening paragraph to the very satisfactory, poignant and just conclusion once again John Boyne has proved himself a master storyteller. Every page of his fictional account (but based on the known facts) sparkles with energy and a vibrancy that is so often missing in writing today. 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. Readers and admirers of Boyne will be delighted at this change in direction, if the art of a storyteller can be measured in his ability to create a narrative and compose a picture out of any situation then surely John Boyne has no equal. Wonderful colourful writing by one of my favourite authors and oh so highly recommended.