Fragile Paradise: a list

Fragile Paradise, Glynn Christian, 1982

  • Pitcairn Islands, #1
  • Borrowed from SF Library
  • Read: October-December 2015
  • Rating: 2/5
  • Recommended for: People who read The Mutiny on the Bounty and thought, “That was pretty good, but it could have been drier. And maybe incorporated some family trees or something. Yeah, that would have been perfect.”

California, 2005

This book was long on words, fairly short on information. So to save you the trouble of reading it, here (in no particular order) are the most interesting things I learned from reading it:

  • There are no books written by Pitcairn Islanders. This, the closest thing, is by a New Zealand-based celebrity chef/food journalist who happens to be descended from Fletcher Christian, the lead mutineer from The Mutiny on the Bounty, and founder of Pitcairn’s current population.
  • Apparently if you were mildly famous in the early eighties you could get a publisher to approve a book deal even if said book consists of three parts, the first being an extremely boring genealogy of a not-particularly-prominent family on the Isle of Mann in the 17th and 18th centuries, the second being a retread of The Mutiny on the Bounty, and the third being a personal narrative of sailing to a remote Pacific island, there to meet some long-lost relatives and walk around speculating about what might have gone down there with your common ancestors 200 years earlier.
  • The Mutiny on the Bounty seems to have been reasonably accurate (Captain Bligh probably really was an asshole).
  • It is difficult to make a lasagna on board a ship in heavy seas, even for a professional chef.
  • The early Pitcairners pretty much killed each other off until there was just one white guy and a whole bunch of Tahitian women left (along with a few children) and the current population is descended from them.
  • No one actually knows what happened to Fletcher Christian; he probably died in one of the early massacres on Pitcairn but there is also an amusing and far-fetched rumor that he made it back to England and lived in secrecy on his familial estate.
  • If you write pretty much the only book that exists about a country and you end it with a grand statement like “Pitcairn’s way of life shows me that the message of basic Christianity can work, that brotherly love and kindness are more sustaining than the rewards offered by industrialized societies…away from the temptations of self-aggrandisement, men and women are born inherently good and continue that way, a far more triumphant dogma than that of original sin,” then you’re probably going to be fairly embarrassed twenty years later when the same cousins you were praising with this weird application of the noble savage trope are implicated in a sexual abuse scandal that involves a third of the country’s male population.
  • There were no mosquitoes on Pitcairn until humans brought them over (not terribly relevant, I know, but the last point seemed like a particularly negative note to end on).
California, 2005

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